A Banner Year: Advancing Education and Innovation

It was another banner year at the Office of Archaeological Studies in fiscal year 2022-2023 (July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023) with 5,403 pot sherds analyzed, 10 technical reports authored for scientific review, and more than 60 objects processed either through archaeomagnetic sampling or radiocarbon dating.

Total revenues of $128,000 via private gifts to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, coupled with 4,735 donated hours of volunteer time, supported the division’s efforts to preserve, protect and interpret prehistoric and historic sites throughout New Mexico.

Scores of volunteers helped former OAS archaeologist and educator Mary Weahkee (Comanche/Santa Clara Pueblo) create a traditional turkey feather blanket, weaving together more than 17,000 turkey feathers with 400 feet of hand-spun yucca fiber cordage. The work, funded by Foundation trustee John Duncan and Anita Sarafa, was created for display in Here, Now and Always, the redesigned exhibition at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture that reopened in July 2022. Weahkee introduced fourth- and fifth- graders at the Santa Clara Pueblo to turkey feather blankets as a traditional Indigenous lifeway, teaching them t o make their own.

“Making archaeology accessible to everyone through award-winning education programs and other outreach efforts fosters greater appreciation for New Mexico’s archaeological heritage,” says Shelby Jones, OAS laboratory manager, lead educator and volunteer coordinator.

Grants and private funding again supported a variety of these programs in the fiscal year. Among the most popular is “Surviving and Thriving: A History of Adaptation in New Mexico,” which includes a traveling tabletop museum, archaeology demonstrations, and workshops and resources for teachers—including curriculum content and educator support. This and other programming reached 12 of New Mexico’s 33 counties and some 6,621 individuals, including 1,982 children and 4,639 adults.

The division’s efforts to broaden statewide outreach were aided by 29 different collaborating agencies, including national monuments and parks Native tribes, schools and museums, and local libraries. And for the first time, programming was made available to Native communities in Colorado, Oklahoma and Utah.

OAS also offered its first-ever paid internship for teens and young adults aged 16 to 24. Three students, ages 17, 18 and 21, from Fort Lewis College, University of New Mexico and University of Nevada, Las Vegas, participated. The interns experienced every aspect of the division, from administration and education to research. In the words of one intern, “Every day, or almost every day, I am doing something new or different. The more I help out, the more I contribute to the amazing discoveries. I love it here.”

The planting of the teaching gardens around the Center for New Mexico Archaeology was another highlight of the fiscal year. This 15,000-square-foot garden was created by former OAS ethnobotanist Mollie Toll and her botanist collaborator, Pam McBride. Toll, director of the Ethnobotany Laboratory from 1991 to 2022, died in February 2023.

In honor of Toll's contributions, the Mollie Toll Endowment for Education Outreach was established at the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, generating $200,675 in the fiscal year via private donations from the Toll Family, a gift from the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust and other supporters of archaeological education. The endowment supports the continuation of Toll’s educational outreach efforts in a diverse range of subjects, including ecology, climate, biology, math and measurement, geology, hand manufacture and mapping.

In May 2023, the division received the City of Santa Fe Historic Preservation Division’s prestigious Archaeology Award for its work on the historic Eugenie Shonnard House, home to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation. And in June 2023, Thatcher Seltzer-Rogers was hired as director of business operations, supervising projects, budgets, grants administration and more. He currently serves as president of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico.

Finally, the division’s internationally known research program received a boost from Joyce Blalock, who designated $35,000 of her $40,000 donation to OAS to specifically support research initiatives.

“Support from individuals for the Office of Archaeology made possible innovative public education and outreach programs as well as important, specialized archaeological research projects,” says OAS interim executive director Matthew Barbour.


This article and image are from the Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s Member News Magazine.