State of the Arts

Michael Abatemarco on the ren­o­va­tions at the New Mex­ico His­tory Mu­seum

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Last fall, the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art cel­e­brated its 100th birth­day by mak­ing a few changes aimed at restor­ing some of the Pue­blo Re­vival-style build­ing’s in­te­ri­ors to their orig­i­nal lus­ter. The drab brown painted floors were stripped and re­fin­ished, bring­ing back their orig­i­nal bright gleam. The sky­lights in the first-floor gallery ceil­ings, long sealed over, were un­cov­ered, bring­ing in some nat­u­ral light. The load­ing dock, plagued by flood­ing dur­ing heavy rains, got a whole new roof. These were wel­come, and in some cases nec­es­sary, changes.

Now the New Mex­ico His­tory Mu­seum is plan­ning some up­grades to its lobby, too, to the tune of a quar­ter of a mil­lion dol­lars. The mu­seum, hav­ing yet to mark its decade an­niver­sary, doesn’t quite have the pedi­gree of its Palace Av­enue neigh­bor — so the rea­son why the up­grades, which will in­clude a mak­erspace and new signage, are nec­es­sary is a bit of I a head-scratcher. “The lobby has been no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to un­der­stand and nav­i­gate in the last 10 years. It has al­most no wayfind­ing,” An­drew Wulf, the mu­seum’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said. The Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Foun­da­tion, a non­profit that sup­ports the state mu­seum sys­tem though de­vel­op­ment for ex­hi­bi­tions and ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams, is in the midst of a cam­paign to raise the funds. “We’re about halfway through that cam­paign and hop­ing to com­plete it by next sum­mer,” said Jamie Cle­ments, the foun­da­tion’s pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer. Some changes have al­ready been made, but they don’t all bode well for what the near fu­ture has in store.

Mak­erspaces in cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions have been trend­ing for nearly as long as the His­tory Mu­seum has been around. It first opened on Memo­rial Day week­end in 2009. The mu­seum’s orig­i­nal con­cept for ren­o­va­tion, de­vel­oped in 2016, was to trans­form the now-de­funct Cow­den Café into a mak­erspace and learn­ing cen­ter. That plan was scrapped. “We moved the mak­erspace to the lobby be­cause it’s very dif­fi­cult to find that café space,” Wulf said. “We’re try­ing to make a con­gre­gant space. There’s no short­age of cur­ric­ula that we’re cur­rently de­vel­op­ing that looks at some of the most ana­log mak­ing his­tory here, from weav­ing yucca san­dals to mak­ing mini-robots based on tech­nol­ogy they’re us­ing at Los Alamos.”

The mu­seum had plans for a sim­i­lar space in the nook be­tween the lobby and mu­seum gift shop sev­eral months ago. That plan, too, was aban­doned. The new mak­erspace will be sit­u­ated on the land­ing Wulf de­scribed as the cross­over area be­cause it is ad­ja­cent to the en­trance lead­ing to the Palace court­yard. “As I un­der­stand, it will be a flex­i­ble space,” Cle­ments said. “They’ll have the abil­ity to move walls and fur­nish­ing and what­not to make it an open space for other ac­tiv­i­ties.” Ac­cord­ing to Cle­ments and Wulf, the fund­ing raised by the foun­da­tion thus far comes from lo­cal donors, and the cam­paign is about $80,000 away from reach­ing its $250,000 goal.

In ad­vance of these ad­di­tions, the mu­seum re­ceived a brand-new paint job fea­tur­ing a murky and op­pres­sive

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