Mission and History

Our Mission

The Museum of New Mexico Foundation supports the Museum of New Mexico system, in collaboration with the Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. The Foundation’s principal activities are fund development for exhibitions and education programs, retail and licensing programs, financial management, advocacy and special initiatives.

The Foundation serves these New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs institutions:

Our History

The Museum of New Mexico Foundation was founded in 1962 by Thomas B. Catron III as a vehicle for providing private support for the four state museums in Santa Fe. The establishment of the private, nonprofit Foundation launched a robust private-public partnership between the Foundation and the State of New Mexico that continues today.

While the State of New Mexico funds building operations and staff salaries, “The Foundation provides a way for private funds to be directed to three vital areas of cultural support: education, collections and exhibitions,” says Catron.

The Foundation’s mission has expanded beyond the four state museums in Santa Fe to include support eight historic sites statewide and the Office of Archaeological Studies. Today, thousands of generous members and donors contribute to all of our cultural institutions through membership, designated gifts and more.

Since its inception, the Foundation has raised more than $90 million in total giving from 25,000 donors and more than 15,000 members. Our role and impact in supporting one of the country’s largest state-run museum systems remains vital to the advancement of the art, history and culture of New Mexico and the world.

Our Milestones

1962: Santa Fe attorney Thomas B. Catron III is tapped to lead the establishment of a private, nonprofit organization to raise funds for the state museum system

1963: Catron begins a 25-year run as board chair as the Foundation records its first donation of $251.30

1966: Foundation membership program launches with $10 annual fee

1966: Foundation’s opens first Museum Shop in Museum of Fine Arts basement

1971:  Foundation assets reach $220,500

1972:  Foundation establishes permanent offices in the historic downtown Hewett House

1973: Sales at downtown Museum Shops, including at the Palace of the Governors, reach $122,926

1974: Foundation membership tops 760

1976:  Foundation assets reach $650,000

1981:  Foundation hires its first development officer

1983:  Foundation assets reach $2.1 million

1984:  Foundation membership tops 2,000

1986:  Foundation hires first executive director to oversee 16 paid employees.

1987:  The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture opens with a Foundation museum shop inside.  

1988:  Foundation helps the Friends of the Palace purchase the historic Segesser Hide paintings for the Palace of the Governors.

1989:  Foundation funds the “Museum Express,” a traveling exhibition mini-van.

1995:  Foundation receives its first major bequest, a $2 million gift from the estate of Santa Fe fiber artist Maggy Ryan.

1997: Foundation membership tops 6,000.

1998: Foundation launches Licensing and Product Development program

2000: Foundation establishes permanent endowment funds of $250,000 each for the four Museum of New Mexico museums

2001: Foundation establishes planned giving program

2002: Foundation assumes operations for Museum Hill Café

2003: Foundation creates the Thomas B. Catron III Endowment fund

2008: Foundation raises $13.5 million for Shape the Future Campaign to build the New Mexico History Museum

2016: Foundation launches Centennial Campaign for New Mexico Museum of Art; receives largest cash gift in its history of $4 million to build Vladem Contemporary

2017: Foundation gifts Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1931 painting Desert Abstraction (Bear lake) to the New Mexico Museum of Art on the occasion of its 100-year anniversary

2018: Foundation’s five Museum Shops generate record $3.3 million in sales

2018-19: Foundation marks $9.9 million in earned and contributed revenues in third record-breaking fundraising year

2019: Foundation launches the $10 million Campaign for New Mexico History, its first-ever statewide campaign

2019: Foundation moves to the Shonnard Campus at 1411 Paseo de Peralta

2020: Foundation manages 31 endowments valued at more than $23 million

2022: Foundation celebrates its 60th anniversary

2023: The New Mexico Museum of Art opens the Vladem Contemporary in the Santa Fe Railyard Arts District

2024: Foundation manages 40 endowments valued at more than $30 million