A Year of Digitization: Expanding Audiences Online
A push for the digitization of collections and other museum resources was top priority at the New Mexico History Museum during fiscal year 2021-2022 (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022). That initiative, as well as exhibitions and public programs, generated $467,317 in institutional support in FY22 through grants and private gifts.
Billy Garrett, the museum’s executive director, says digitization adds another dimension to the multi-building museum campus, making it accessible to “users both on our campus and around the world” without having to physically visit. He points out that the museum’s website—nmhistory.org— recorded more than 2.6 million visits. Viewers from outside the country were as equitably represented as those from the Southwest.
Some of those users will undoubtedly be excited to have online access to the collection of seventh-generation New Mexican John S. Candelario. Though best known as a photographer, Candelario captured an assortment of Native songs, Spanish folk songs, interviews, lectures and more on reel-to-reel and cassette tapes. In FY22, a $15,000 grant from the Council on Library Information Resources enabled staff at the museum’s Fray Angélico Chávez History Library to digitize and preserve some 200 of his rare audio recordings.
While new audiences were engaged online, in-person outreach brought others to the source while also providing funding support in FY22. Friends of History, the museum’s member support group, continued to raise funds and increase awareness of the museum through a year-round program of tours, lectures and other events.
Friends of History is perhaps best known for its downtown walking tours. Noting that tours now take place seven days per week with the season extended through Thanksgiving, Friends of History Steering Committee Chair Michael Ettema says, “This has been a year of expansion.” To that end, a FY22 $17,000 New Mexico Humanities Council grant made it possible for the tour manager to rewrite the docent training manual and to create a downloadable walking tour app.
Last November, history enthusiasts again gathered in Santa Fe for the annual museum-sponsored Fred Harvey History Weekend. Proceeds benefited the museum and included presentations in the museum auditorium and dinner at two historic New Mexico Fred Harvey hotels—Santa Fe’s La Fonda on the Plaza and the Castañeda in Las Vegas.
A Better Understanding
Garrett says the museum’s exhibitions strive for “bigger themes which resonate with our audience” in an effort “to better understand our world and how to operate in it.”
The Foundation’s Exhibitions Development Fund generated $100,175 in FY22 for exhibitions exploring local and global history. Opening in March 2022 was Curative Powers: New Mexico’s Hot Springs, whose 90 photographs provided a history of New Mexico’s restorative hot springs, which became internationally known for their healing properties in the late 19th century. This was followed in April and May by Stories, Memories, and Legacies, which educated museum-goers about one of the largest WWII internment camps in the country in the heart of Santa Fe.
Finally, steady progress continued in FY22 on significant interior renovations of the iconic Palace of the Governors, whose centuries-long local and global history appeals to residents and visitors alike. The year saw nearly $1 million directed toward these repairs with completion anticipated at the end of 2023.
This article and image are from the Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s Member News Winter 2022.
Photo of “Harvey Girls in a Row,” from Katrina Parks’ documentary The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound. Photo courtesy Northern Arizona University, Cline Library and Assertion Films.“Harvey Girls in a Row,” from Katrina Parks’ documentary The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound. Photo courtesy Northern Arizona University, Cline Library and Assertion Films.