An opportunity to travel the world without a passport is back at New Mexico State University. The University Museum reopened to the public this month for the first time in more than a year since it closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Although we were closed, we’ve been busy making improvements in our facilities, and we’re excited for the community to visit us,” said Kristin Otto, museum curator. “For the first time, all of our exhibits also will be translated into Spanish.”
The museum is not hosting an opening reception because of COVID-19 restrictions, but is open to the public from 12 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays beginning August 17. The museum is located on the university campus in Kent Hall at University and Solano. Masks are required as per CDC and state health guidelines and NMSU policy.
The museum will host four exhibitions: “When a Woman Rises: Maya Weavers Creating Relationships Through Textiles”; “Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World”; “Pottery from the Americas” and a special display in the lobby.
“The lobby exhibit is designed as an introduction to the work we do at the University Museum,” Otto said. “It gives an overview to learn more about our mission, collections, teaching, research and outreach initiatives through rotating displays.”
In the West Gallery at the museum, a display titled “Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World,” presented by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, examines human, animal and environmental connections through the lens of global epidemics and pandemics, as well as the responses to and community impacts of outbreaks. The exhibition has customized elements focusing on local responses to COVID-19 and includes 3D virus models printed by the Baker Bioanalysis Lab at NMSU.
“We customized the display with a couple of panels of COVID-19 in Las Cruces,” Otto said. “We worked on one with all the doctors and staff in local hospitals, as well as NMSU professors involved in the COVID 2 Home Project. We worked with Iván de la Rosa, social work professor, on another panel that highlights the unequal impacts of COVID-19 on people of color. Another section focuses on student experiences during COVID-19 and how their lives have changed during the course of the pandemic.”
The “When a Woman Rises” exhibition in the museum’s East Gallery will be on display all year. It explores the practice of Maya weaving in Chiapas, Mexico, and the many-layered relationships created as textiles circulate around the world. The exhibition was co-curated by Otto, NMSU Professor Emerita Christine Eber, the local organization Weaving for Justice, and contributions from the Tsobol Antsetik weaving cooperative.
“We’re looking at global cross-border relationships and the connections between Las Cruces and the weavers of Chiapas,” Otto said. “One of the exciting things they do is dress saints in ceremonial weavings. We’ve received donations to support the commission of one of them and we’ll follow the process of creating it all along the way. We plan to have an event when the garment arrives in the spring.”
The permanent collection on display at the University Museum is “Pottery from the Americas,” an exhibition of prehistoric, historic and contemporary pottery from the Southwest and Mexico.
“Most people see museums as static,” Otto said. “We’re trying to show that museums are active and let people know through our blog about the work going on right now. At any given time, we’re supporting student and faculty research, working on digitizing our collections, and sharing information about fun things we have in our collection.”
As an integral part of NMSU’s Department of Anthropology, the museum is home to thousands of objects in its anthropological, ethnographic and historical collections. The artifacts are used for teaching, research and public exhibitions to engage the community through informal education about local and global cultural heritage. Researchers from around the world work with its collections and partnerships with academic units across the university offer opportunities to create student learning centered on cultural heritage.