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Learn About Santa Fe, NM History at Local Museums

Your planned Santa Fe, New Mexico activities should include several stops at area museums, so as to experience the flavor and the rich history associated with the region. Santa Fe is famous for its historical museums, which faithfully preserve the art and the culture in a number of facilities run by the state of New Mexico, as well as some that are privately maintained. You will be especially pleased if you have any kind of appreciation for Western, Spanish Colonial, Native American, or world folk art. Your only problem will be trying to decide which of the many museums to include on your itinerary. Here are a few of our favorites:

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, United States

El Rancho de las Golondrinas

'The Ranch of the Swallows' is a living history museum which was originally established more than 300 years ago as a way station on the road to Mexico City. In present times, it's open from June through September, and you'll see the past literally come to life here, with authentic buildings restored on original foundations, a defensive tower from the 1700's, a blacksmith shop, a schoolhouse, a chapel, and an entire village typical of southwestern life in the 1800's.

black and white photo of Chimayo
Photo courtesy of

Museum of Spanish Colonial Art

This is the only museum in the country dedicated to preserving and interpreting Spanish Colonial art, and you'll find more than 3,700 individual pieces of art which reflect that heritage. Along with some of the truly extraordinary Hispanic Southwest artwork pieces, you can also experience the Traditional Spanish Market in July, which annually attracts more than 80,000 visitors.

Palace of the Governors courtyard tree, looking west, Santa Fe, New Mexico

New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors

The Palace of the Governors is this country's oldest continuously run government building, and it's situated in the heart of America's oldest capital city. A recent addition to the Palace has seen the 96,000 sq. ft. New Mexico History Museum joined with the original structure so that an entire five centuries of New Mexico history can be presented to appreciative patrons. Enjoy the historical panorama covering Native American life, Spanish colonials, the Outlaw period, Santa Fe trail riders, and the coming of the railroad.

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

This is the premier museum in the area for the display of Native American art and the rich heritage they brought to the region. A sampling of what you'll see includes authentic hand-made baskets, pottery, jewelry, textiles, sculptures, canvas paintings, and a remarkable 150-ft. hunting net woven from human hair around 1200 A.D.

Museum of International Folk Art

Ever since this facility opened in 1953, it has been gaining more and more acclaim as a premier repository for International Folk Art, and it has become one of the most famous Santa Fe, New Mexico attractions. In July, the whole area around the museum explodes into artistic life as tens of thousands of art lovers gather here for the International Folk Art Market. In four separate wings, more than 135,000 artifacts reflecting the folk art of more than 100 different countries can be seen here.

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