Notes & News

(505) 277-4405


Open Exhibits project funded by the National Science Foundation

Open Exhibits is an open source software project designed to transform how museum professionals and other educators assemble interactive computer-based exhibits for use in museums, schools, and on the Web. This project is spearheaded by Ideum, a multimedia exhibit and web development company located in Corrales, New Mexico, in partnership with the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. The National Science Foundation Informal Science Education program is funding this three-year project.

The Open Exhibits project is developing downloadable templates and modules that museums can use to easily create presentations on touch screens and multi-touch tables. Exhibitions developed with Open Exhibits technology will offer visitors a more interactive and social experience.  An important part of this innovative project is research and evaluation of how this new technology will impact a visitor’s experience.

As part of this open source initiative, Open Exhibits brings together developers and users from around the world who are contributing to the technology and applications. This community will communicate and operate via and will provide a virtual network system to link people, projects, software, and ideas. The Open Exhibits community contributions and evaluation results may have a significant impact on museum exhibitions and education.

NM CADRe project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The New Mexico Cultural Assets Digital Repository and e-Community - NMCADRe  - has received $135,718 from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to develop a collaborative digital repository for New Mexico museums.  Led by the Maxwell Museum, the repository will be established in partnership with the UNM Center for Advanced Research Computing (CARC) and the New Mexico History Museum Palace of the Governors Photo Archives. Long-range plans include partnering with state institutions, local museums, historical societies, archives, tribal governments and community centers.   Catherine Baudoin, Curator of Photographic and Digital Collections, and Tim Thomas, Deputy Director of CARC, are co-PIs of the three-year project.

This innovative facility will create, acquire, and present digital assets and operate as a clearinghouse for best practices in conversion, preservation, and accessibility for New Mexico’s rare and threatened visual treasures. The repository will provide a cost effective and robust long-term data storage capability and a public access Web site to foster and support collaboration and education across disciplinary, social, political, and geographical boundaries.

NM CADRe is the only project in New Mexico funded this year by the IMLS Museums for America program, acknowledging the importance of photographs and objects as essential to preserving the visual record of art, history, and natural history of the state.  NM CADRe will support community involvement, student success, and advanced digital research.  It will give teachers, children, students, and scholars both locally and globally, the opportunity to share in the wealth of resources the state of New Mexico holds.  

Ellis Archives Donated to the Maxwell Museum

Florence Hawley Ellis taught anthropology at UNM from 1934 to 1971, but her professional career spanned an even longer period – from her first teaching job in 1928 until her death in 1991.  During those six decades, she published extensively and also generated huge volumes of unpublished research papers, notes, maps, and photographs, most of them relating to New Mexico’s prehistoric and living cultures.  For years, the Ellis archives remained in Dr. Ellis’s house, and research access was limited.  The Maxwell Museum holds many of the archaeological artifacts from her collections, but without access to the field notes, researchers were reluctant to study the artifacts.

In 2009 Rieka Long, Florence’s granddaughter, inherited the archives.  Ms. Long’s wish was for the archives to the greatest possible benefit, so she allowed the Maxwell Museum staff to borrow the archives, organize them, and make them accessible to researchers.  The Maxwell Museum is pleased to report that recently, Ms. Long converted the loan to a gift.  Now that the collections and field notes have been reunited, they represent a critical research resource for New Mexico archaeology.  If you would like to help organize the Ellis archives, please contact Dave Phillips at (505) 277-9229.

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center Studies Tsama Collections from Maxwell Museum

In 1970, Florence Hawley Ellis led a field school at Tsama Pueblo in the Chama Valley of Northern New Mexico.  The site was occupied from the late 1200s until the early 1500s, so forms an important bridge between the Ancestral Puebloan villages of the Pueblo III period and the Pueblo world documented by the first Spanish explorers and colonists.  The site is important because it ties in with the late pre-historic migrations of the Pueblo people – for decades, archaeologists suspected that when the Mesa Verde region of southwest Colorado was depopulated, many of those people moved to the Rio Grande region.  Proof of that migration was elusive, in part because many immigrants mixed in with existing Rio Grande populations.  The exception seems to have been on the fringes of the Rio Grande region, in places such as Tsama Pueblo, where the Mesa Verde immigrants encountered few existing settlements and were under less pressure to assimilate.

Dr. Ellis’s 1970s collections from Tsama Pueblo were stored at the Maxwell Museum, and for the next few decades they merely gathered dust.  In 2008, that changed: the entire artifact collection was loaned to the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colorado for reorganization and analysis.  Crow Canyon used the project as a training opportunity for the public, teaching its volunteers how to process the collection and identify pottery types.  For Crow Canyon and the Maxwell Museum, the loan of the collection is a proverbial win-win situation – Crow Canyon is able to extend its research in understanding where the Mesa Verde people went, and the Maxwell will get back a collection that is far better organized and thoroughly documented than when it left.

Museum Receives Clovis Point from BLM

In late April, the Maxwell Museum received a most welcome and prized donation: a complete Clovis point.  The point was discovered as an isolated artifact on a parcel of Bureau of Land Management land a short distance southeast of the small community of La Cieneguilla, about 2 miles southwest of the Santa Fe Municipal Airport.  The point is made of a beautifully patterned red to pinkish red petrified wood, and exhibits a complex network-like pattern of cross-cutting red veins on a lighter pinkish red background.  Clovis points within the Rio Grande Valley are few and far between, and only two actual occupation sites are known.  Isolated points such as this one may represent the loss of a spear during the pursuit of a wounded animal.  However it came to be at this place on the landscape, the unfortunate hunter’s loss is our gain, and we have the BLM and Judy Kowalski to thank for this wonderful addition to our collections.

Excavations at Conejito Shelter

In early 2006, the Office of Contract Archeology monitored construction of the Mid-American Western Expansion natural gas pipeline near Counselor, NM (about mid-way between Cuba and Farmington) when a prehistoric shelter enclosed by large boulders was discovered buried under 3 meters of natural sand.  The site, called Conejito Shelter, was an exciting archeological find because it retained intact cultural deposits from five superimposed occupation layers.  The lower layers were especially significant as they retained unusually well-preserved remains of burned seeds and fauna.

Radiocarbon dates obtained from a hearth feature indicate the earliest occupation took place between 780 and 410 BC (Late Archaic period), while narrow neck-banded ceramics found at the uppermost later indicate the last occupation dated to AD 900 to 1100 (Pueblo II period).  Excavations at the Conejito Shelter offered new and intimate knowledge of Late Archaic subsistence in New Mexico’s southeastern San Juan Basin.  Because the shelter was discovered completely buried under naturally blown sand, there is a strong likelihood that other shelters, such as Conejito, are still buried elsewhere in the southeastern San Juan Basin awaiting their discovery.