Make your way to a museum

The New Mexico History Museum is the ideal jumping-off point to delve into the state’s past and present. Celebrating its fifth year in 2014, the museum presents an interactive tour from formative Native cultures, through Spanish occupation to today’s New Mexico. The museum has gems around every turn: Take the stairs to the lower level slowly to listen to recorded congressional sessions debating the merits—or lack thereof—of New Mexico statehood. Two side-by-side exhibits are headlining the temporary offerings this year. Poetics of Light: Pinhole Photography showcases the museum’s collection of pinhole images and features a camera obscura with which visitors can experience the time-tested optical principle. “The photos are alternatingly beautiful and bizarre, and together [they] create an alternate sense of reality,” says Kate Nelson, museum spokeswoman. The second noteworthy exhibit, Painting the Divine: Images of Mary in the New World, displays 30 paintings from the permanent collection to demonstrate how faith anchored colonists in remote frontiers and how the depiction of Mary evolved in these new environs.

The adjacent Palace of the Governors is the museum’s finest showpiece. Built in 1610 by Spanish explorers, the palace has been in continuous public use longer than any other structure in the US. Don’t miss the print shop and bindery, where limited-edition works are produced on hand-operated presses. Outside the palace, local artisans sell jewelry through the Portal Native American Artisans Program, which certifies that artisans are members of local tribes and pueblos.

Visitors planning to visit NMHM and other Museum of New Mexico institutions should purchase a four-day pass, which gives admission to the history museum, the Museum of Art, the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture at a discounted rate of $20.

113 Lincoln Ave., 476-5200 •

Bataan Memorial Military Museum and Library
Started as tribute to the New Mexico National Guard, which lost half its soldiers in the Bataan Death March, the museum has grown to depict four centuries of military history. Check out the museum’s small arms collection; it’s one of the finest in the Southwest.
1050 Old Pecos Trail, 474-1670,

Center for Contemporary Arts
The CCA hosts revolving exhibitions of regional, provocative visual art in its gallery, vibrant readings and discussions in its Living Room and indie and foreign film screenings in its Cinematheque.
1050 Old Pecos Trail, 982-1338,

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
The largest US museum dedicated solely to an internationally known woman artist, the museum’s collection includes 1,149 of O’Keeffe’s works curated in twice-yearly exhibitions. Begin your visit by watching the short film devoted to her life and legacy.
217 Johnson St., 946-1000,

El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe
This museum showcases Hispanic visual and performing arts and the culture of Northern New Mexico via monthly gallery exhibitions, performances and classes. It is also home to the weekend Santa Fe Flea Market.
555 Camino de la Familia, 992-0591,

Indian Arts Research Center
The School for Advanced Research’s remarkable 12,000-piece collection appeals to true devotee of Native American art. Book a tour through the temperature- and humidity-controlled vaults to explore the treasures.
660 Garcia St., 954-7205,

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
The MoCNA features the country’s most progressive works by contemporary Native artists, including those from the impressive permanent collection and Institute of American Indian Arts students. Don’t miss the Allan Houser sculptures in the garden.
108 Cathedral Place, 983-1777,

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology
This museum is a premier repository for Native art and archeological artifacts. Explore thousands of years of Native culture and take special note of the pottery exhibition detailing differences between each Pueblo Nation’s signature designs.
710 Camino Lejo,
Anthropology Lab, 476-1250; Museum, 476-1269

Museum of International Folk Art
Home to the world’s largest collection of folk art, MoIFA boasts more than 130,000 objects—106,000 of which hail from the personal collection of designer Alexander Girard and are on permanent display. This year’s visiting exhibitions spotlight traditional Japanese kites (through July 27) and Brazilian folk art (through January 4, 2015).
706 Camino Lejo, 476-1200,

Museum of Spanish Colonial Art
This intimate museum preserves Spanish Colonial-era artifacts such as retablos (religious paintings on wood), bultos (free-standing religious sculptures), colcha embroidery and other items. The museum’s structure is also noteworthy: It was designed by architect John Gaw Meem, a leader in creating the iconic Pueblo Revival style.
750 Camino Lejo, 982-2226,

New Mexico Museum of Art
The museum’s permanent collection emphasizes regional art, including works by the Taos masters, Los Cincos Pintores and contemporary artists. Revolving exhibitions New Mexico Art Tells New Mexico History and Spotlight on Gustave Baumann will be on display through 2014. The NMMA building, an exemplary Pueblo Revival–style adobe, is a mandatory downtown photo op.
107 W Palace Ave., 476-5072,

New Mexico State Capitol
Built in 1966 in the shape of a Zia Pueblo emblem, this is the only round capitol building in the US. It is home to the Governor’s Gallery and the Capitol Art Collection, an impressive grouping by local contemporary artists displayed throughout the Roundhouse and free to view.
Paseo de Peralta and Old Santa Fe Trail, 986-4614,

Poeh Cultural Center and Museum
This Pojoaque museum tells the history of Tewa-speaking Pueblo people through the works of local artists, including figurative sculptures by Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo) and murals by Marcellus Medina (Zia Pueblo). It features three rotating exhibits a year.
78 Cities of Gold Road, 455-7136,

El Rancho de Las Golondrinas
This 200-acre ranch 15 minutes south of the Plaza is a living history museum that preserves Spanish colonial life in a 18th- and 19th-century Spanish village, complete with a working molasses mill, blacksmith shop, shearing and weaving rooms, winery and vineyard and corral with dozens of farm animals. It also hosts a handful of summer festivals.
334 Los Pinos Road, 471-2261,

Santa Fe Art Institute
SFAI offers artist residencies and exhibits contemporary art at its complex at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.
1600 St. Michaels Dr., 424-5050,

Santa Fe Children’s Museum
The top destination for kids in the adult-centric City Different, this museum offers interactive exhibits and hand-on activities in the arts, humanities and sciences. Of special note is a 16-foot climbing wall and a one-acre Southwest horticulture garden, both ripe for exploration.
1050 Old Pecos Trail, 989-8359,

SITE Santa Fe
This premier art space hosts revolving shows by some of the world’s most noted and mind-bending contemporary artists, including the acclaimed Biennial. Set in the Railyard, SITE offers free admission Saturday mornings during the Santa Fe Farmers Market.
1606 Paseo de Peralta, 989-1199,

Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian
Founded in 1937 by scholar Mary Cabot Wheelwright in collaboration with Navajo medicine man Hastiin Klah, the hogan-shaped museum offers three to four exhibits per year preserving Native cultures. July through August on Saturday and Sunday at 7 pm, the museum offers family-friendly storytelling evenings with Santa Fean Joe Hayes.
704 Camino Lejo, 982-4636,