In 1909, when the Palace of the Governors became the state’s first museum, its collections included artifacts that primarily represented the history, anthropology, fine arts, and Spanish colonial art of the Southwest. The core of its holdings was the collection of the Historical Society of New Mexico, formed in 1859 to collect and preserve the history and heritage of New Mexico. The society’s collection was initially loaned to the Museum of New Mexico and then donated in 1977.
As the Museum of New Mexico added new museums (Museum of Fine Arts in 1917; Laboratory of Anthropology in 1947, later becoming the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture; and the Museum of International Folk Art in 1953), collections were transferred to these sister institutions based on their unique missions.
Today, the historic object collection of the New Mexico History Museum consists of approximately 16,000 three-dimensional artifacts. This collection includes all aspects of life in New Mexico, from local artistic traditions to objects from daily life, such as farm equipment, toys, and cooking utensils. Among the most prominent objects in the collection are the Segesser Hides, a pair of mid-eighteenth-century buffalo hide paintings that reference a battle and military expedition from Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1720. The museum also holds a commemorative Tiffany silver set from the battleship USS New Mexico, the ship’s bell, and memorabilia of sailors who served on her.
The New Mexico History Museum focuses on objects that explore the stories of all peoples of New Mexico. Some of our strongest collecting areas include farm and ranch equipment, firearms, nineteenth- and twentieth-century textiles, Nuevomexicano religious objects, as well as a range of furniture and other objects which made their way into the state via the Camino Real and the Santa Fe Trail.
Examples of objects in our collections include:
- A tete-a-tete sofa that belonged to Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy
- An ore bag from the Santa Rita Copper Mine
- Bottles recovered during the excavation of Fort Union
- A saber found in the rafters of an old house in Cochiti
- A pair of vases said to come over the Santa Fe Trail
- Moon rocks from the Apollo 11 Mission
- A corbel from the old Nambe church
- A bed warmer used by Adolph Bandelier
- A table made at Fort Sumner for the Manderfield house in Santa Fe
- Last flag flown from the USS New Mexico battleship before it was decommissioned
- A rifle “found about 1913 in a mesquite bush on the east side of Organ Pass, Do[ñ]a Ana County”
- The field bed of General Mariano Arista
- A Civil War–era drum found in an overhang by the Pecos River by a sheepherder
- A copper kettle said to have been made from metal left over from the casting of the Cochiti church bell