The excitement on campus and emanating from staff, faculty, and students is palpable. The Pack is coming back to The University of New Mexico and the campus is preparing for them. Among the staff preparing for students and other visitors are those at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology.

The Maxwell Museum was preparing for an exhibition when the campus shutdown was announced in 2020. Staff quickly pivoted to online exhibitions and sadly put away the artifacts for the anticipated spring show.

The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology reopens Tuesday, Aug. 17. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Maxwell parking is free and parking is free on the UNM campus on weekends.

“On many days over the last year and a half, I’ve walked alone through the empty museum—in theory, to make sure the building and collections were safe and secure—but really for the comfort and inspiration that visiting a museum brings. I am grateful that we can once again offer that to others; we are all excited to welcome the UNM and larger community back,” mused Maxwell director and professor of Anthropology Carla Sinopoli.

Maxwell Installation Lauren Fuka and Michael Rendina 2
Lauren Fuka and Michael Rendina work on the opening exhibition

The museum staff took advantage of the downtime, making repairs to the galleries and updating the gift shop.

“The large mural wall in the Peoples of the Southwest Gallery was developing significant cracks and damage in our nearly 50-year-old building,” Sinopoli said. “We have repaired the wall and painted over the mural. Visitors will see a long blank wall that we plan to use for some experimental installations as we work to update the exhibition over the next few years.”

Some repairs will be less visible to visitors – work is being done now to update the fire suppression system in the Hibben Center and Sinopoli hopes to begin renovations in the Museum’s archives room soon to create improved workspace for researchers.

Staff is finishing up the installation of the long-delayed exhibition Heartbreak: A Love Letter to the Lost National Museum of Brazil, which will greet visitors when we reopen. This exhibition, first developed by Museum Studies Master’s student (now graduate) Jackson Larson and Curator of Exhibitions Devorah Romanek, had been scheduled to open last spring. It is a tribute to a Brazilian museum that was lost to a catastrophic fire in 2018. A companion exhibition featuring Amazonian ceramics in the Maxwell’s collections will open this Fall.

The museum hired six new student employees to work at the front desk and museum store.

“We anticipate having our usual 30 to 40 students working all areas of the museum once the Fall semester is in full swing,” Sinopoli said. “However, several staff left the museum during the pandemic, leaving us short-staffed as we reopen, so please, be patient with us.”

“Like many of us at UNM, staff at the Maxwell Museum pivoted to doing our work online in March 2020. We worked hard to continue to serve our community through online exhibitions, virtual tours, educational resources, streamed events, and hundreds of web and social media posts,” Sinopoli continued. “We are excited to return to in-person exhibits and programs. But we also have a greater appreciation of the strengths and reach of virtual engagement and are committed to continuing to produce quality virtual content and to serving people around our state and around the world who can’t visit us in person. We look forward to seeing and shaping the new post-COVID museum experience.”

The Maxwell Museum opens to the public on Tuesday, Aug. 17. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Maxwell parking is free and parking is free on the UNM campus on weekends.

** UNM and the Maxwell Museum follow state COVID guidelines. Effective Monday, Aug. 2, masks are required on campus.

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