Doing History in a City Looking Forward

On Sunday, April 18, 2021, Albuquerque Museum Director Andrew Connors discussed the Albuquerque Museum’s challenges and efforts on presenting history-related topics or events at the Albuquerque Museum. The program was live-streamed on the AHS Facebook page.

Portrait of Juan José Baca

In general, Albuquerque has never marketed itself as a city rooted in history. When it does present itself as a center of historic culture, the image is rarely distinctive from that of Taos or Santa Fe. The story of Albuquerque is so different however from those more recognizable cities. Since the late 1870s Albuquerque has presented itself as a city moving in to the future. The arrival of the railroad, of Route 66, the airport, and the high technology of the military and scientific communities have all pushed the city forward, and, ironically away from the storied past and traditions that so capture the imagination of visitors from the outside world.

The trick for us is to focus on those transitions of individual or communal innovation, find the story, document the moment, and string that in to the legacy of history. When we look for the historical past, we miss the opportunity to discover the current energy, and realize the “now” will soon be our past. When well-intentioned business owners looked to the tourists flocking to Santa Fe and decided they could make our Old Town as scenic as theirs, they plastered over the dynamism of a city always moving forward, a city with Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Art Deco, and, yes, adobe homes at its core. They created an historic pastiche when the real story is so much more interesting, if hard to summarize in a marketing slogan.

"Be Fierce" Deb Haaland poster

The Albuquerque Museum collects broadly, including objects of recent relevance and manufacture. History comes from interesting places in our community. Who would have guessed that the first Native American member of any United States President’s cabinet would come from Albuquerque? That’s historic, and it happened only a few months ago.

Photo of Andrew ConnersAndrew Connors is Director of the Albuquerque Museum where he previously served as Curator of Art from 2009 through 2018. Formerly he was Chair of the Visual Arts Department at Albuquerque Academy (2006-09), Senior Curator at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque (1999-2006), and Associate Curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (1984-1999) where he developed collections and exhibitions on Hispanic, Latino, Native American, and Folk Art. He studied Art History and Architecture at Yale University and did his graduate work in Folklore and American Studies at George Washington University. He has curated dozens of exhibitions primarily in the areas of United States Latino Art, Colonial Art from Puerto Rico, Contemporary art, and Graffiti. As a lecturer, guest teacher, or consultant, he has worked with numerous organizations including the National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Office of Folklife Programs, Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame, Chicano Studies Department at the University of California Los Angeles, Getty Center for Education in the Arts, and the Royal Government of Bhutan.

To learn about other Albuquerque Historical Society programs, View the AHS Programs page.