Mo Palmer – Longtime Albuquerque Historian and Archivist

Photo of Mo Palmer
Mo Palmer

Albuquerque historian and author, Mo Palmer, has been recognized with an Albuquerque History Accolade for researching and presenting Albuquerque history to broad audiences in a straightforward and relevant manner. If you are interested in Albuquerque’s history, it’s difficult not to have heard of Mo Palmer. She’s been around lending her hand to all things Albuquerque for so long that you can find traces of her work throughout a myriad of films, exhibits, and books.

Mo is from Artesia, New Mexico. When she was in seventh grade the family moved to the Monte Vista neighborhood in Albuquerque. Her father sold insurance and her mother was an English teacher. Mo attended Jefferson Junior High and graduated from Highland High in 1961. In the Fifties, girls’ options were limited, so she got her “MRS” degree and started a family. With Joe McKinney and many others, she helped pioneer New Mexico Search and Rescue in the Seventies. Her fascination with field medicine led her to become an EMT, and she then worked at Albuquerque Ambulance (AAS).

Bob Stover, Director of AAS, encouraged Mo to return to UNM to pursue her interest in criminology. Inability to do advanced statistics without sobbing defeated that dream, but a history class with Dr. Charles Biebel, author of “Making the Most of It: Public Works in Albuquerque during the Great Depression, 1929-1942”, reset her goals. She caught the history bug, changed her major, and wrote her senior honors thesis on “The Way We Were: A Newspaper History of Albuquerque, 1925-1940.” Seeking photos to illustrate the work, Mo discovered the Photo Archives at the Albuquerque Museum and fell in love. She volunteered/interned with History Curator Byron Johnson for five years, while completing a Masters’ of American Studies with concentrations in local history and archival procedures.

Mo served as Photo Archivist at the museum from 1992 to 2002, where she increased public awareness of its vast image holdings through lectures, bus tours, KNME ¡Colores! programs, three Albuquerque films for the GEM Theater, an oral history program, “Voices of the Past”, and biannual history exhibits. She wrote an Albuquerque Tribune column, “Looking Back at Albuquerque”, until the newspaper closed. Mo taught New Mexico History at Sandia Preparatory School until retirement. She is archivist/historian for Presbyterian Healthcare Services and wrote the history portion of “Presbyterian: The First 100 Years”.

Mo Palmer, Diane Schaller, John Grassham, Ann Carson and Spencer Wilson founded Historic Albuquerque, Inc. (HAI) in 1999. She now serves as the organization’s archivist. She continues to research and tutor Albuquerque history, conducts oral histories, and teaches new enthusiasts how to find and connect with local resources.

View other Albuquerque History Accolades.