New Mexico Indian Art and Culture Museum (MIAC)
A rainy day sent us out to explore the museums on Museum Hill. The New Mexico Indian Art and Culture Museum was our first stop. Sadly, the museum did not allow photos. As I walked inside, I wondered how I would remember my visit if I had no photos as evidence. Photos trigger my memory about the day, the weather, our experiences, and other details. I worried I’d have nothing to say without them.
Glad they couldn’t stop me from taking photos outside.
Here is what I remember from the inside:
- Silver and turquoise rings, necklaces, earrings, and belts nestled in glass display cases with little cards detailing the date, cost, and location purchased. Native Americans created all the items, and a curator purchased them through trading posts.
- The Clearly Indigenous: Native Visions Reimagined in Glass exhibit featured 33 indigenous artists, and work from Dale Chihuly who, according to the museum’s website, “introduced glass art to Indian Country.”
Individual pieces drew me in and my shutter finger itched to take a photo or two or three or more on the sly. All that’s left in my memory are vague words like beautiful, gorgeous, fantastic, and how-did-they-do-that. Those words lack the specificity needed to evoke emotion, so I lean on photos to reveal the story and elicit meaning. Perhaps a sketch might work the same.
Although MIAC opened its doors to the public in 1987, its history began 78 years earlier when anthropologist Edgar Lee Hewett founded the Museum of New Mexico. In 1947, the museum merged with the Laboratory of Anthropology, founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1927 to study Southwest indigenous cultures. It took thirty more years for the New Mexico state legislature to appropriate $2.7 million for the museum’s design.
The tiny sliver of objects on display during our visit, along with art created by contemporary artists, gave us only a glimpse of the treasures MIAC has collected over the past 112 years. We hope to see more during a visit in the future. Maybe I can learn to sketch before then. The result doesn’t have to be gallery worthy, only enough to trigger my memory.
Museum of International Folk Art (MIFA)
Across the courtyard is the Museum of International Folk Art. Visitors have Florence Dibell Bartlett to thank for this museum. She founded MIFA with her 1953 donation of 2,500 craft items. Her vision and funding of the building was the seedling needed to support a collection that has grown to more than 130,000 pieces of folk and traditional art created throughout the world.
With five wings to explore, visitors are sure to find something engaging from among the ceramics, costumes, jewelry, paintings, and wood carvings. My camera made up for the lost opportunity at MIAC, clicking away to capture the colorful objects.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden
We avoided the afternoon monsoon by visiting Santa Fe Botanical Garden in the morning. The garden is a relatively new addition to Museum Hill. First, the City of Santa Fe offered a long-term lease of 11 acres in December 2006.
Over the next five years, landscape architect W. Gary Smith created a master plan, and the city launched an intensive review process with final approval in 2011. An additional three acres were added, and in July 2013, the garden opened to the public.
Subsequently, additional leases and work over the years expanded the garden to 20.5 acres. The newest project, Pinon-Juniper Woodland, opened in 2021.
It must have been the season for glass displays like we saw at MIAC. The garden’s current art exhibition, Capturing the Light, featured several glass art works strategically positioned among the plants and flowers.
We found the botanical garden a delightful place to wander around, exploring the varieties of trees, shrubs, flowers, succulents, and cacti.
Weldon’s Museum Hill Café serves lunch from 11 to 2 Wednesdays through Sunday. We can’t vouch for the food or service because they were closed before we were ready for lunch.
Next up: Santa Fe Railyard Arts District