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Past Exhibits

Past Exhibits

CLOSTING SOON: A Vernacular Response Photography of the Navajo Nation by Rapheal Begay

End Date: Saturday, September 25, 2021

Thirst-Quenchin’ (Navajo, NM), 2017 by Rapheal Begay

Thirst-Quenchin’ (Navajo, NM), 2017 by Rapheal Begay





“Exploring the past, creating the present, and curating the future.”


The photography of Diné photographer Rapheal Begay presents an account of the Navajo Nation—without ever directly portraying any people—by focusing on the land and the material and visual culture of the people. By bringing these photographs into our museum and combining them with a small selection of related material culture from our collection, the Navajo Nation and New Mexico, the Maxwell Museum offers an opportunity to engage with a contemporary portrait of Diné people, picturing the land and culture viewed through the camera lens and words of Raphael Begay.

A Vernacular Response is the documentation of land and environment with respect to symbolism, perspective, and imagination reflective of the Diné way of life. An ongoing theme within the series is the acknowledgement and celebration of Indigenous innovation and future forward imaging. One can discern the role of creativity within Navajo art and life as a strategy for survival. The Navajo cultural teaching of hozho expresses the intellectual concept of order, the emotional state of happiness, the biological condition of health and well-being, and the aesthetic dimensions of balance, harmony, and beauty. Therefore, concept and content become synonymous with one another as both elements become interchangeable within the frame of the image.


“With the sky above and the earth below, I find myself connected to the land and to my surroundings. I believe the recollection of self through connection to memory creates a bridge between life and art. Through practicing the art of photography I am able to create my own path and, create community. At the end of the day, I strive to acknowledge and embrace each singular moment; A Vernacular Response.”  Rapheal Begay


Many anthropology museums have their origins in the salvage anthropology and vanishing race theories of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when anthropologists and museum curators collected the material culture of Indigenous Peoples thinking they would soon literally or culturally disappear, due to the impact of colonization. The Maxwell Museum, like so many other anthropology museums, contends with the legacy of such collecting practices, and works to facilitate more accurate contemporary portraits of those represented in its collections, with some notable portion of the collection being comprised of Diné (Navajo) material culture.

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Drowned River: The Death and Rebirth of Glen Canyon on the Colorado

End Date: Tuesday, December 31, 2019

image from the book, Drowned River: The Death and Rebirth of Glen Canyon on the Colorado

Detail of Still Water in Side Canyon, lake Powell, 2012

In the early 1960s, photographer Eliot Porter photographed Glen Canyon, a stunning landscape slated to be submerged under the waters of the Colorado River with the construction of the Glen Canyon dam. The Sierra Club published a book of the images in mid-1963, called The Place No One Knew, in an attempt to halt the proposed dam. The effort failed, and Lake Powell was created, becoming a bustling recreation area atop the majestic canyonlands.


In their most recent project together, Mark Klett, Byron Wolfe and Rebecca Solnit engaged with Porter’s published work to make a vital statement about climate change. Years of exploration of Lake Powell, making pictures, studying Porter, and learning about the history and future of Glen Canyon produced a body of work in which Solnit’s sparse and effective text is interwoven with Klett and Wolfe’s impressionistic images.



Drowned River: The Death and Rebirth of Glen Canyon on the Colorado, documents both the devastation of the dam project, as well as the unanticipated resilience of the Colorado River.

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Intertwined: The Mexican Wolf, the People and the Land

End Date: Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Mexican wolf image by Jenna Miller/Cronkite News 2018

A Mexican Wolf that has just been collared for purposes of tracking, Arizona, February 2018.  Image: Jenna Miller/Cronkite News

Perhaps no other animal in North America has been as controversial as the gray wolf, which once numbered in the millions on this continent. Massive reductions of wolf populations began with the arrival of European settlers. Today, wolves continue to be central in debates about the American ecosystem. Preservationists and environmentalists usually argue for their protection and renewal, while ranchers and their advocates often argue for reduction if not their elimination. The exhibition investigates the biology and history of the Mexican Wolf, focusing on the human/wolf relationship.

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The Stonewall Uprising, the 50th Anniversary

End Date: Monday, August 5, 2019

Queen of Diné Pride, Navajo Nation, 2018. Rapheal Begay

Queen of Diné Pride, Navajo Nation, 2018. Rapheal Begay


The Stonewall Uprising, the 50th Anniversary, on exhibition June 25 - August 5, 2019


This exhibition, created by the non-profit Stonewall fifty-fifty, is a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a galvanizing event in the struggle for LGBT+ civil rights. Included are a recounting of the Uprising, and of LGBTQ+ communities in New Mexico, on the Navajo Nation, and during the Harlem Rennaisance.

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The First World War

End Date: Saturday, July 27, 2019

Servando Gonzales and fellow musicians, ca. 1919.


 Servando Gonzales (left) and fellow musicians, ca. 1919. Private Gonzales of Tijeras played the violin in his division, the 19th Infantry, Company E. Photo Courtesy of the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives.

New Mexico achieved Statehood just two years before the Great War, World War I, broke out in Europe in 1914.  The global conflict ended with the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918.


This year, with the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice, the New Mexico History Museum opened a permanent exhibition entitled The First World War, guest curated by Devorah Romanek, Curator of Exhibits at the Maxwell, featuring the stories, images and letters home from New Mexicans who served. The Maxwell Museum hosts an abbreviated version of this exhibition.

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Return to Diné Bikéyah: The 150th Anniversary of the Signing of the Navajo Peace Treaty

End Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Picture of Chief Manuelito and unidentified Diné man

Unidentified Diné Man and Manuelito,

New Mexico Territory, ca. 1867

By Nicholas Brown & Son

Diné, meaning “The People,” is how the Navajo refer to themselves.  The Diné comprise the largest Indigenous nation in North America. Diné Bikéyah, also known as The Navajo Nation, stretches across portions of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico; at more than 27,000 square miles, it is larger than 10 of the U.S. States.

In 1598 the founding of the Spanish colony of New Mexico changed the lives of the Diné forever, marking the beginning of the often-violent changes brought by settler colonialism. In 1848 the U.S. Army arrived in New Mexico territory, and in 1864 the U.S. government forcibly removed the Diné from their homeland to an impoverished tract of land known as the Bosque Redondo, in eastern New Mexico. This exhibition observes the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Navajo Peace Treaty, which took place on June 1, 1868, after the Diné insisted on being allowed to return home. The Diné are the only Native Nation to successfully use a treaty to retain their homeland.


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Gun Violence: a Brief Cultural History

End Date: Saturday, November 17, 2018

Gun Violence: a Brief Cultural History

An X-ray of an shotgun wound to the upper arm. Image: Case courtesy of Dr. David Cuete,, rID24457

Mass shootings involving guns have become a fact of American culture. While mass murders happened throughout recorded history, changing civilian gun technology has made the murders more deadly.

  • In 1966 the deadliest mass murder in U.S. history up to that point took place at the University of Texas at Austin. The “Texas Tower Sniper”* killed 16 people and wounded 31 over 96 minutes, using a bolt action rifle and semiautomatic weapons.  His weapons allowed him to achieve a casualty rate of one every two minutes.
  • The current deadliest mass murder in the United States took place in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2017. Firing from a hotel into a country music festival, a shooter killed 58 people and wounded 546 over 10 minutes. By using assault rifles converted into automatic weapons, he achieved a casualty rate of one per second.

However, most gun deaths are not mass shootings. For example, in 2015 gun suicides killed 22,000 Americans, homicides killed 13,000 people, and mass shootings killed 46.


Museums have played a role in the romanticizing of guns, which began with the earliest display of guns in European  “Cabinets of Curiosity.” For example, the 17th century Ashmolean collection in Oxford contained numerous firearms, including a musket of the Elizabethan period inlaid with mother-of-pearl and engraved with the heads of Roman emperors. The British Leverian collection in Westminster had early 18th century Turkish guns, and Napoleon III had a Prussian needle gun in his Cabinet of Curiosities. In the late 1800s, Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers, founder of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum, assembled a large collection meant to trace the evolution of firearms.  In the 19th century as museums collected the spoils of colonization, the collection and display of guns and others weapons increased. Military museums, built around armaments amassed for citizen militias and the national military, began housing and displaying enormous collections of guns.


American museums, particularly those that portrayed Western expansion, created exhibitions that glamorized firearms, with persistent themes including the “Kentucky” or “Pennsylvania” Rifle (long rifles), Colt revolvers, and armed outlaws who carried these firearms.  Such exhibitions celebrated a gun-slinging American frontier, based in part on historical events, in part on popular legends, and, in part on outright fiction. Museums have not been the only ones romanticizing guns, but their role in this process is undeniable.


Dave Phillips and Devorah Romanek, 2018

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Ecologies of Resistance by DesertArt LAB

End Date: Saturday, April 28, 2018

Samples from desert reclamation project

Samples from DesertArt LAB Pueblo Colorado reclamation project.

Ecologies of Resistance illustrates the artistic process of the DesertArt LAB collaborative’s site-specific ecological installation in the high desert of southern Colorado, through the use of artifacts, archival materials, and botanical samples. The collaborative is transforming a plot of blighted land into a thriving dryland ecosystem that also serves as an edible native landscape. Informed by social sculpture, the collaborative believes artists have the ability to altruistically transform and shape their environments and society. Re-growing ecologies in community space allows for the revitalization of ecological practice and a reimagining of an indigenous dryland cosmology and aesthetic.

About DesertArt LAB: 

April Bojorquez has worked in the museum field nationally/internationally as an educator, curator, and researcher. She is based in the San Francisco area and Southern Colorado. Bojorquez is fellow of the Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Museum Studies Program. She is a former faculty of American Ethnic Studies and assistant curator at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum at Kansas State University.


Matt Garcia’s artistic practice investigates ecology, its relationship to knowledge systems and how media can connect communities to a reclaiming or re-imagining of lost epistemology. Garcia is an assistant professor of Art and Design at Dominican University of California. Garcia was formerly an assistant professor of Digital/Experimental Media in the Department of Art at Kansas State University. Garcia’s work has been presented nationally and internationally at venues such as: Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Paris, France).

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Last Supper

End Date: Saturday, March 31, 2018

Last Supper by C. Maxx Stevens

Last Supper exhibition still by C. Maxx Stevens


Last Supper by C.Maxx Stevens, Seminole/Mvskoke, is a conceptual installation pointing to the negative effect of contemporary diets, and the devastating effect of diabetes throughout native nations. Stevens’ builds a visual narrative based on private and public memories and experiences. The exhibition Last Supper creates a larger social awareness of the epidemic and its dilemma in all of the United States: one out of every six native people will develop diabetes or be affected by the disease. The mixed media installation includes Stevens’ family archives and testimony about the disease and its impact on traditional values and the drastic evolution of diet as well as economy.

C.Maxx Stevens is an Installation artist and Seminole/Mvskoke Nation from the Oklahoma Region. Her art is based on memories of family and culture expressed in three dimensional environments using materials, objects, and technology to build a visual narrative.  She is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado serving as the Foundation Arts Director in the Art and Art History Department. C.Maxx has been a recipient of many awards and honors such as 2014 Art Matters Grant in New York, New York, 2005 Eiteljorge Fellowship Award. She has exhibited at the Smithsonian American Indian Museum Heye Center in New York City, New York; C. N. Gorman Museum, University of California at Davis, Davis, California; Eiteljorge Museum of Indian Art, Indianapolis, Indiana; Museum of Arts and Crafts, New York, New York; Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Gordon Snelgrove Gallery, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; The Montana Museum of Art and Culture, Missoula, Montana; Boise Art Museum, Boise, Montana; and  White Mountain Academy Gallery, Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada to name a few.

Last Supper is presented in partnership with the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and will be on display through March 31, 2018,  a reception and gallery talk withC. Maxx Stevens will take place Friday, March 2, from 6 – 7:30 at the Maxwell Museum. The event is free and open to all.

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Entering Standing Rock: the Protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline

End Date: Saturday, March 10, 2018

Standing Rock poster, Defend the Sacred, by Jon Charley

Image (detail) Jon Charley "Defend the Sacred"

Native Americans have been resisting colonial and American government impositions since the arrival of colonists in the Americas during the 15th century. Opposition includes events as diverse as the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and the founding of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1968.  The current protest at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline (NoDAPL) is utilizing new strategies, technologies, media, and allies.

The NoDAPL protest began in response to a proposal to build a 1,172 mile long pipeline crossing multiple states, communities, farms, fragile wildlife habitats, and tribal lands. The protest has involved members of more than 100 indigenous tribes as well as non-tribal citizens.

The exhibition features photographs, posters, film, music, news reporting and other works by artists, journalists and activists who have supported or participated and offers a glimpse into life at the  camp  and shows how artists and protestors use social media to spread the message of protest.

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No Hate, No Fear: Responses to the Presidential Ban on Refugees and Immigrants

End Date: Saturday, March 3, 2018

(detail) Woman's Oud, mid-20th century, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology Collection



The title of this small but important exhibition is taken from a common refrain chanted at recent protests happening around the country: “No Hate, No Fear, immigrants (or “refugees”) are welcome here!”  The protests were a response to the executive ban of immigrants and refugees from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The protests reflect both a long history of Americans resisting government decisions they find objectionable (starting with the Boston Tea Party of 1773), and the power of social media to unite groups with a common purpose.

In this exhibition, which features both musical instruments from the countries singled out in the original ban and coverage of the protests at airports against the ban, we encourage visitors to contemplate the implications of the ban, as it continues to be debated, litigated, and revised.

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Cross Currents: China Exports and the World Responds

End Date: Saturday, March 3, 2018

Many things we use every day, from coffee mugs to iPhones, come from China.  The pattern began more than 2,000 years ago, when the Han dynasty promoted the "Silk Road" through central Asia, and the first porcelain objects arrived in Europe in 1338.  For almost two centures afterwards porcelain was a rarity, owned mostly by kings and high nobles.  Once Portuguese ships reached China in the early 1500s, it was suddenly possible to transport large quantities of Chinese ceramics directly to the West.  In the early 1700s the Chinese reorganized their porcelain production to cater to Western demand.  This exhibition highlights that history and its impact on cultural dynamics spanning hundreds of years and featuring dozens of ceramics from around the world in exploring this phenomenon.

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La Frontera y Nuevo México: The Border and New Mexico

End Date: Saturday, September 30, 2017

Tohono O’odham Man in the Maze basket

Tohono O’odham Man in the Maze basket, ca. First half of the 20th century, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology  Collection

The cultural ramifications of national borders have become an increasingly important topic in anthropology, mirroring the global importance of the topic in general.  Because New Mexico is on the U.S.-Mexico border, the politics of that border are deeply important to the state and its people.  The recent presidential election also made the border and immigration controversial issues.

 In light of recent events and the long and complicated history of the U.S.-Mexican border, La Frontera examines border and immigration policies and realities from an anthropological perspective through the use of images of the border, objects – personal and political – related to the border, and personal reflections from people and organizations who are most directly impacted by the border and immigration policy.  We ask what the border means to different people, and what the border means to you.

La Frontera y Nuevo Mexico: The border and New Mexico is an anthropological investigation of the U.S. Mexican border in two parts, the first section currently on exhibition in the Maxwell is an introduction to the topic and the second section will be installed by January 31 in the Hibben Center, just south of the Maxwell. La Frontera is the latest in the Current Issues in Anthropology series of exhibitions. Presenting news media, historic documents, personal reflections and objects, the series presents thought provoking topics and requests feedback

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Earth, Fire and Life: Six Thousand Years of Chinese Ceramics

End Date: Friday, June 16, 2017

Terra Cotta horse head

China’s historical role in the global ceramics market is so pervasive that in English, “china” is a synonym for porcelain and similar wares. We invite you to examine more than 100 pieces of “china” created and used as China took shape, and became the civilization we know today.  Supported by The Ortiz Center, New Mexico Humanities Council, Eason Eige, the Tang family, the Chan family and Mr. Ed Jeung.


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Chinese Americans in New Mexico

End Date: Saturday, January 14, 2017

Chinese immigrants first came to New Mexico in in large numbers in the 1800s looking for jobs, particularly building railroads and mining. Because of harsh laws, including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and other discrimination, the Chinese in the “first wave” of immigrants were unable to create lasting communities in New Mexico.
In the early 1900s, a small but permanent Chinese-American community took root in New Mexico, including refugees from the Communist takeover of mainland China, along with immigrants from Taiwan. New Mexico’s Chinese Americans are proud to be U.S. citizens, but also remember their ancient heritage.  
As Dr. Siu Wong, a member of the Chinese American community in Albuquerque, said of the tea cups displayed in this exhibit, and brought by her parents from Shanghai: 
“Throughout my childhood these tea cups were never used; they were too fragile for everyday life. Instead they were a reminder of my family's affluent lifestyle prior to the Japanese occupation of China in the late 1930s and early 1940s.”
The exhibition recounts the story of Chinese immigrants and Chinese American communities in New Mexico through photographs, documents and family heirlooms.

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Evidence & Theory: Photographs from the Maxwell Museum Archives

End Date: Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Image of people standing in line

Photography occupies a unique position in the world of invention, with the photographic image held as both an expression of hard factual evidence and as subject to complex theoretical interpretation.

Evidence and Theory: Photographs from the Archive of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology questions the fundamental interpretation of photographic imagery and the relationship between seeing and knowing truth. The exhibition explores this duality through a collection of historical images from the Maxwell Archive, many on display for the first time

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¡Viva la Revolución!: The Legacy of the Mexican Revolution at the University of New Mexico

End Date: Saturday, January 30, 2016

Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution Poster, 1942 (reproduction).
Courtesy of The University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research

The Mexican Revolution was a multifaceted drama that involved various factions.  Several issues instigated rebellion, but Francisco Madero's November 20, 1910 revolt against the Dictator Porfirio Díaz, has been designated as the official beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Narratives of the war evolved beyond the violent phase of the insurgency, and, over time, competing or counter narratives and understandings of the insurrection have continued to emerge.

The legacy of the Mexican Revolution is (re)defined and (re)constructed by what is remembered through various ongoing processes of memorialization, institutionalization, education, and celebration.

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Mexico at the Hour of Combat: Sabino Osuna's Photographs of the Mexican Revolution

End Date: Saturday, January 30, 2016

Nurse aiding fallen soldier

The Mexican Revolution began in 1910 with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution is generally considered to have lasted until 1920, although the country continued to have sporadic outbreaks of warfare well into the 1920s. It gave birth to the Mexican Constitution of 1917.

A nascent generation of photographers documented the struggle. Sabino Osuna was among the photographers who appeared on the scene and was able to get close to the action. The images he produced cover primarily the early years of the Revolution, in particular the Decena Trágica. As nonpartisan observers, photographers covered the events and enjoyed the liberty of moving freely among the rival troops. They carried no weapons and posed no threat to the warring factions.

Fifty-six images selected for the exhibition come from the Osuna Collection of 427 glass negatives that are held in the University of California Riverside Libraries Special Collections & Archives. The Osuna collection is both historically important as well as visually impressive and coherent, presenting one ­person’s point of view.  The exhibition of the photographs is augmented with historic and contemporary objects related to the Mexican Revolution.

Mexico at the Hour of Combat is supported by the Consulado de México en Albuquerque, UNM Chicana/Chicano Studies, Global Education Office, Latin American & Iberian Institute, the Ortiz Center for Intercultural Studies and Univision.

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Archeology on Ice

End Date: Sunday, October 4, 2015


Ancient ice is melting throughout the world, and in the Arctic, annual average temperature has increased at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the earth. Artifacts that have been frozen in ice for thousands of years are emerging. A team of researchers from the University of New Mexico led by James Dixon investigated ice patches in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The results of the ten year project are the subject of a new exhibition at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. 

Archaeology on Ice tells the story of the climate change in the Arctic through a unique collaboration between scientists, the Ahtna Heritage Foundation and tribal members. The exceptional preservation of the organic tools (wood, antler, bone, and leather) found at ice patches has enabled people to make direct links between today and the past. Many local people participated in the research to locate and preserve these rare artifacts. They have shared their knowledge about their customary and traditional use of the land and its resources. Artifacts on display include arrows, spear points, and birch bark baskets. 

Four short educational videos present significant results of this research:

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El Agua es Vida: Acequias in Northern New Mexico

End Date: Sunday, May 3, 2015

Visitors viewing exhibit

The northern New Mexican landscape as seen today was created by acequia irrigation and agriculture. Every colonial settlement that took root between 1600 and 1847 required the construction of ditches to channel water to grow crops and sustain livestock.  By 1700, an estimated 60 acequias, or ditches, were operating in New Mexico, followed by more than 100 acequias over the next one hundred years, with at least 300 additional acequias built in the 1800s.

El Agua es Vida: Acequias in Northern New Mexico portrays the fundamental role acequias play in the environment and in community in Northern New Mexico, where water is a precious resource of increasing scarcity. The exhibition uses a groundbreaking multi-disciplinary study conducted by researchers at the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Tech and Sandia Labs.  The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, investigates the importance of the acequia system of water delivery and management in generating, transforming and sustaining the landscape. 

The water crisis of the 21st century is global. Many of the questions that concern acequia researchers have also been pursued by researchers working on similar systems in other parts of the world.

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Clay, Fire, and Containment: Recent Pottery Acquisitions at the Maxwell Museum

End Date: Saturday, February 21, 2015

Clay figurine

The Maxwell has collected pottery since its inception in 1932, primarily focusing on the U.S. Southwest. With the help of donors, the expansion of the pottery collection has become global, supporting efforts to think and talk about the wider world from an anthropological perspective. This exhibition displayed Chinese ceramic pieces, ranging from the Neolithic period (starting 10,000 B.C.) to contemporary times; contemporary pottery of sub-Saharan Africa; Remojadas figurines from the Gulf Coast of Mexico; and the local expression of the prehistoric Pueblo world - the Casas Grandes culture (between 1200 and 1450 C.E.) located in what is now Chihuahua Mexico.

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Will Wilson: Critical Indigenous Photo Exchange (CIPX) 2013

End Date: Friday, November 7, 2014

Will Wilson

The exhibit displayed portraits by Diné artist/photographer Wilson taken using a vintage, large format camera and using the historic wet plate collodion process. The photographic process references a bygone era and the historic images that continue to contribute to society's collective understanding of Native American people.

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