The Maxwell Museum at Anthropology recently welcomed a new curator of Archaeology, Kari Schleher, who holds a joint position as an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. Schleher earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology from UNM in 2010. She comes to the Maxwell from the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colo., where she was the laboratory analysis manager from 2011-2014 and laboratory manager from 2014-June 2020.

Kari Schleher
Kari Schleher, Maxwell curator of Archaeology

Returning to The University of New Mexico is a homecoming for Schleher, who wrote, “I’m thrilled to be back at the Maxwell as the curator of archaeology. This is truly my dream job—I’d been enamored with the amazing collections, great research, and wonderful staff at the Maxwell since I first started at UNM in 1998.”

Schleher’s research interests are wide-ranging, focusing on Prehispanic and Historic period Southwestern material culture and the archaeology of Pueblo people from Basketmaker through Colonial periods. She brings particular expertise in ceramic analysis as well as considerable experience in collaborative and community archaeology, cultural heritage education, and the analysis and curation of legacy museum collections.

As she is getting to know Maxwell’s archaeology collections, Schleher is working on several projects that she launched before returning to UNM. Much of her work focuses on understanding the production and use of crafted goods and how they can help us better view life in the past. Her current projects include (but are not limited to):

The earliest Ancestral Pueblo production of pottery in the central Mesa Verde region. Schleher has documented innovation and experimentation in pottery technologies early in the Basketmaker III period and traced the transition to the standard pueblo recipe for pottery by the end of the period. This research has been enhanced by conversations with members of Crow Canyon’s Native American Advisory Group.

Jewelry from a Chaco Outlier community in the Mesa Verde Region explores variability in personal ornaments, identity, and social connections across the broader Chaco world. 

Learning and social connections in the Rio Grande evaluates the recipes that Ancestral Pueblo potters used to make ceramic vessels in the Rio Grande. This work builds on and continues her doctoral research on ceramic production at San Marcos Pueblo.

Schleher hopes to expand this work (with tribal permission) to examine how connections in technologies, expertise, and exchange relations extended to the Pueblo of Tonque through the study of collections housed at the Maxwell Museum.

“I’m so excited to get to work with the other curators and tribal collaborators on new exhibits that highlight Maxwell collections. I’ve enjoyed working with curator of Education Amy Grochowski on a video tour of the People of the Southwest exhibit to reach out to school groups in these challenging times when students are not able to visit the museum in person.  I look forward to developing more public outreach opportunities with the extensive archaeological collections from the US southwest.

"One of my favorite things is working with students, so I’m excited to work with UNM undergraduate and graduate students and share my passion for southwest archaeology and community-centered research with them in the collections and in the classroom. And, most of all, I look forward to developing new research questions and projects, in collaboration with local tribal partners, focused on the rich archaeological collections of this region of New Mexico.”

** Image of detail from the cover of The Archaeology and History of Pueblo San Marcos edited by Ann F. Ramenofsky and Kari L. Schleher