About our Collections

Students and faculty at work at field school

Archaeological Collections

The University Museum is a repository for archaeological materials surveyed and excavated by faculty, staff, and students at the University. The majority of this research took place at prehistoric sites, although some material also came from historical sites. Some surveys and excavations also occured on federal land, and the museum curates this material for federal agencies according to federal standards.

Highlights of the archaeological collections include: a wide variety of material documenting the lives of the Mimbres people living from 1000-1150 AD in the valleys of southwestern New Mexico; evidence of the earliest domesticated corn in the American Southwest excavated from the dry caves in the Organ Mountains; and material excavated from historical sites and American military forts along El Camino Real. Whole ceramic vessels excavated and owned by the museum can be seen in the Pottery from the Americas exhibition in the museum's east wing.

Woven basket with bees

Ethnographic Collections

The University Museum's ethnographic collections reflect both the museum's place in the Southwest border region, as well as the ways material culture connects us to people around the world. Collections draw from faculty and student research, collaborations with local artists and makers, and the travels and interests of donors. The museum seeks to collaborate with living communities whenever possible for the curation and care of these collections.

Some highlights of the ethnographic collections include: diverse examples of the approaches to basketry in the southwest; Puebloan ceramics - including a collection of over 450 wedding vases (the Boucher Collection); and textiles from the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. In addition to collections from the southwest, the museum holds artifacts from around the world, including West and East Africa, China, Iran, and the South Pacific.


1979.01.9, Fan from the Amador Collection

Historical Collections

The historical collections at the University Museum relate to the history of the Las Cruces region and New Mexico State University. Many of them were acquired internally through the university, or by donation from families in the region or alumni in the region. Much of the material is enhanced by documents and photographs in the Archives and Special Collections Department of the University Library.

Highlights of the historical collections include: furniture made by young men participating in the 1930s National Youth Administration (part of the Roosevelt-era Works Progress Administration); clothing, textiles, dolls, and housewares from the prominent Amador family (the Amador Collection); and memorabilia from the museum’s departments.

Read more about our ongoing research with the collections on the University Museum Blog.