Wonder on Wheels Mobile Museum retrofitted with Dinosaurs of New Mexico exhibit, 2017. Courtesy/NM Dept. of Cultural Affairs
SANTA FE — From mid-April through the end of 2017, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs Wonder on Wheels (WoW) mobile museum was visited by 17,430 New Mexicans.
WoW’s featured exhibit for 2017 sampled the vast paleontological resources held by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS) in Albuquerque. In this exhibit, children learned how fossils were formed, what paleontologists do, what dinosaurs ate, how they lived, and their habitat.
During the year, WoW logged just under 500 hours (498.5) serving schools students and adults in rural parts of the state without access to museums. Since it hit the road April 17, 2017, WoW visited all 33 New Mexico counties making visits to 115 sites, including 40 schools, 27 libraries, four tribal schools, eight tribal libraries, three tribal youth centers, two tribal events, and seven other public events. Collectively during the nine months that Wonder on Wheels was on the road 13,144 children and 4,286 adults toured the mobile museum’s exhibit Dinosaurs of New Mexico featuring dinosaur fossils and specimens.
A specially retrofitted 38-foot RV featuring 300 square feet of exhibit and curriculum-based programming, WoW brings specific exhibits curated from one of DCA’s eight state-run museums to public schools and libraries in communities throughout New Mexico. The WoW program is designed to share its featured exhibit with rural communities in all corners of our New Mexico engaging school students in the school year, and library youth programs and tribal libraries in the summer. WoW curriculum targets fourth and fifth grade education standards, and allows all ages to learn and experience New Mexico’s rich cultural resources housed in the eight state-run museums.
“We are extremely pleased with how the Wonder on Wheels mobile museum has been received around New Mexico,” Department of Cultural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Veronica Gonzales said. “This is an incredibly effective resource to engage diverse, rural and underserved residents of New Mexico with active, hands-on learning experiences across cultural and scientific disciplines. It allows us to share the rich educational materials housed in New Mexico’s state museums and historic sites with all of our citizens, and deepen the understanding of our shared history and culture.”
Curators, educators, and designers from DCA’s eight museums create the experience in the mobile museum. Each of the following museums will build a WoW exhibit that will travel throughout New Mexico for one year: NM Museum of Natural History & Science, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, NM Museum of Art, NM History Museum, Museum of International Folk Art, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, NM Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, NM Museum of Space History, and NM Historic Sites
In 2018, WoW’s featured exhibit is from the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe. The mobile museum presents a unique look at the 24 Native American tribal communities of New Mexico, told through the eyes of Pueblo, Apache, and Navajo children. Administered by the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Department of Cultural Affairs, the museum continues its outreach to the many rich and diverse communities that make up the Land of Enchantment. This exhibit was guest curated by Dr. Jessie Ryker-Crawford (Ojibway) and Dr. Shelley Valdez (Laguna Pueblo), president of Native Pathways, a non-profit educational company.
The WoW program is made possible by the support of the J.F. Maddox Foundation, the SP and Estelle Yates Family Foundation, The Chase Foundation, and the New Mexico Public Education Foundation. The exhibits and outreach costs are funded through grants and individual donations.