Sunday, January 26, 2014

Stewart L. Udall Center for Museum Resources

Some years ago a new building for The Center of Museum Resources suddenly appeared on Museum Hill in Santa Fe. The site was dubbed Museum Hill because sitting there above the city are four of our nine Santa Fe museums, including the International Folk Art Museum that is one of the most popular destinations in town.  Opposite the Folk Art museum is the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC) and the Laboratory of Anthropology. The “Lab” is considered part of MIAC though it was the first building on the Hill. It is a major example of the “Santa Fe Style’, built in 1930 by the architect John Gaw Meem and has been designated a Historic Building.

These latter two are part of the State Museums with another two in the center of town, the History Museum and the Art Museum.  There are also nine Historic Sites, eight of which are open to the public, around the state of New Mexico. All are part of the State Museum system, which is under the Department of Cultural Affairs.

The Center for Museum Resources had been housed in a building in town, which had been the Elks Club and was in pretty poor shape.  When that space was needed in order to build the new History Museum annexed to the 1610 Palace of the Governors, Resources had to find new space. 

Two sisters Martha Root White and Amelia Elizabeth White, wealthy socialites from New York who “discovered” Santa Fe on a cross country trip in 1923 and made it their home left their estate as the campus for the School of Advanced Research (SAR).   The White Sisters donated as well land for the Laboratory of Anthropology  along with most of what was to become Museum Hill, the Resources  building was constructed on land that already belonged to the Museums of New Mexico.

The new building is beautifully situated on the hill with fabulous views and in the center is a courtyard with contemporary sculpture.

Stewart Udall was a well-known Politician from Arizona and when he left the Federal Government he moved to New Mexico and did a great deal for the Conservation of Natural Resources.  Therefore, it seemed like an appropriate dedication for this new building, The Stewart L. Udall Center for Museum Resources and that is exactly what it is.

Each museum has its own director and curators, so why is there a separate administration building?  The bottom line is economies of scale.  New Mexico is an economically poor state and it is much less expensive to have one larger department than 4+ smaller ones.  

The Udall building houses several functions.  One is the publication of El Palacio, the museum magazine, launched in 1913.  It bills itself as “New Mexico’s Magazine of Art, History & Culture of the Southwest” and is the house organ for all the State museums, with a print run of about 15,000.

Shelley Thompson is the dynamo Director of Marketing and Outreach for the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and she is also the Publisher of El Palacio aided by her equally dynamic editor, Cynthia Baughman.

Also in the building is the Public Relations Department run by Steve Cantrell, Public Relations and Social Media Manager for the DCA.  This is a multifaceted job.  Social Media in itself is a moving target that one needs to adapt to continuously, so in the official description of his job, Steve added the word “Entrepreneur” which is most apt.

The third party that I met at a very informational luncheon was David Rohr, Creative Director of the DCA. His role is vital to the success of the previous two resources and he, of course, has a substantial staff.  By trade David is a graphic designer who previously worked at the magazine “Art in America”.  One can tell his insightful style when he has personally designed an article.   He also oversees other areas of design such as exhibition installation at the museums.  His department on its own is worth a Missive and I hope to get to it in the not too distant future.

One individual who I have not met is Richard Sims, Director of Historic Sites and he is in charge of all those historic sites around the state so has arguably the greatest impact on all those who do not visit the capital city, Santa Fe.

I look forward to the opportunity of writing in more detail about each of these departments and the projects that come out of them.  The Resource Center is a microcosm of what goes on in museums around the country.

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