WNMU Museum in Silver City, New Mexico, occupies a historic building and houses one of the largest collections of Mimbres pottery and artifacts in the world, as well as other prehistoric Southwestern pottery and artifacts.
Western New Mexico University Museum
Silver City, NM
The quaint and scenic town of Silver City, New Mexico, was established in 1870 after the discovery of, you guessed it, silver ore deposits. The town enjoyed an early period of high crime, peppered with colorful names like Butch Cassidy, Sombrero Jack, and “Dangerous Dan” Tucker. The town was connected to the Santa Fe Railroad in 1886, and Western New Mexico University was established in 1893 as the “New Mexico Normal School,” as colleges for training teachers were then called—all of this before New Mexico became a U.S. state in 1912.
It’s in this milieu that the current WNMU campus came to be. Historic Fleming Hall was completed in 1917 in the California Mission Revival style with a glorious trussed ceiling to house the student gymnasium and science classrooms. Converted to the WNMU Museum in 1974, the building underwent renovation work from 2016 to 2018, a project that received a Heritage Preservation Award from the state of New Mexico.
In the light and airy central exhibition hall, visitors can now view one of the largest collections of Mimbres pottery and artifacts in the world, as well as other prehistoric Southwestern pottery and artifacts. Mimbres pottery, which dates from the ninth to the twelth centuries, is known for its distinctive, oft-imitated, black-on-white geometries and figures of animals, people, and other cultural imagery.
Between cases of pottery throughout the hall, look out for the museum’s collection of historic photographs documenting the campus’s history, as well as other curious features. Think green chalkboards and tiered, old-fashioned student desks left intact, heavy wood and glass display cases obviously too large to move, traces of basketball markings on the gymnasium floor, and a water fountain gifted by the class of 1929. Lastly, the mezzanine provides spectacular views of the surrounding town and landscape.
If you’re Silver City–bound, the WNMU Museum is a must-see to spend a couple of hours and dip into the history of this special area.