Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
Summer may be synonymous with a break from education, but that doesn’t mean you want your brain to rust. Plus, when the heat starts to boil your insides, what better way to escape it than to dash into the air-conditioned halls of a museum and admire art, learn about our ancestors or play with giant bubbles?
While it’s fine to visit museums based on topics of your interest, we’ve dedicated this guide to learning about things you don’t know a whit about. Hate snakes? Visit the American International Rattlesnakes Museum and learn to love them—or at least respect them. Cringe at the thought of geometry? Go to ¡explora! and leave dreaming of parabolic curves.
This guide is Albuquerque- and East Mountain-exclusive. Don’t forget that there are tons of cool museums all over our state. Visit newmexicoculture.org/museums.html for a list of some of them.
If You Think “Manet” Is a Misspelling of “Monet”(Art)
This is a big deal. Turner to Cézanne, an exhibit featuring works by some of history’s most renowned artists, is coming to town. The exhibit has never toured the U.S. until now, and it’s only making five stops nationwide. Albuquerque is its final host before heading home to National Museum Wales. The 53 masterpieces, by the likes of van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir, Monet and Manet, are from the Davies Collection. Our city doesn’t see exhibits like this often, so don’t miss out. The show runs from May 16 to Aug. 8. In addition to the museum’s general admission fees, tickets are $5. Plus, on Saturday, May 15, the museum’s throwing an opening night party from 5 to 8 p.m., with food, a cash bar and live gypsy jazz by Le Chat Lunatique. Tickets to the event are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.
University of New Mexico Art Museum
UNM Campus, Center for the Arts building • 277-4001
Getting cultured doesn’t have to be expensive. UNM’s art museum has a relatively quick turnaround, bringing in several new high-quality exhibits a year. Until the end of May, catch Man Ray, African Art and the Modernist Lens. The museum also houses more than 30,000 objects in various collections, some of which can be browsed online.
One of our area’s most beloved attractions, visiting Tinkertown requires a trek up the mountains, but it’s well worth the trip. It’s a 22-room, meandering museum made with more than 50,000 glass bottles. Ross Ward was the man behind the innards, ones stuffed with memorabilia and carvings that used to be part of a traveling exhibit that toured carnivals and county fairs in the ’60s and ‘70s. Now they make up elaborate miniature towns brimming with Americana.
If You Think a Quasar Is a Russian Emperor(Science-tastic)
Make bubbles the size of beach balls; learn about refraction and color spectrums; play with light beams and systems of motion; ride in a giant, lobby-sized elevator outfitted with a couch. Science is fun: ¡explora! shows you exactly how fun it is. This interactive museum is great for children, but grownups love it, too. That’s why it regularly hosts Adult Nights, the next of which is scheduled for Friday, May 21, with the scintillating theme "Light and Shadow.”
Dinosaur bones. Need we say more? The Museum of Natural History and Science has everything a true science lover or science novice could need: dinosaur exhibits that range from the Triassic to the Cretaceous, a massive theater (now screening Wild Ocean and Mummies: Secrets of the Past), and a planetarium with shows that take you all over the universe.
The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History
The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History
This place used to be known as the National Atomic Museum. It’s a Smithsonian affiliate and the country’s only congressionally chartered museum in its field. Through exhibits that teach about X-rays, uranium, the Cold War, radiation and much more, learn about the history and modern-day implications of nuclear science.
The mineral, fossil and rock specimens displayed in this museum are just a sampling of the Earth and Planetary Sciences department’s massive geological collections. Exhibits feature items from the Jemez Caldera and the Harding pegmatite mine, as well as minerals that fluoresce (i.e., glow) when the lights turn off, a pair of dinosaur eggs and much more.
If You Think Vertebrates Are Part of Your Spine(Nature)
A lot of Albuquerqueans have never heard of the Rattlesnake Museum, which is a shame, because it has more species of live rattlesnakes than the Philadelphia, Bronx, Denver, San Francisco, San Diego and National zoos combined. Education is the highest order at this Old Town establishment, so go for a thrill, but leave with your myths dispelled.
Did you know that there’s an entire museum in Albuquerque dedicated to turquoise? Learn everything you ever wanted to know about this popular Southwestern gem—and we do mean everything. Plus, the museum’s entrance is a mock mine.
Museum of Southwestern Biology
UNM Campus, CERIA building • 277-1360
This one’s for the true biology devotee. The museum is really a research and teaching facility, but tours of its vertebrates, arthropods, plants and genomic materials collections can be viewed by appointment. Have a kid who loves bugs or wants to grow up to be a scientist? It’s the perfect place to take her.
Casa Grande Trading Post, Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum and Petting Zoo
If you’re planning a drive along the Turquoise Trail, stop by this sweet 28-room adobe, which has a mining museum filled with maps, dioramas, rock collections and antiques. Before you leave, take a few minutes to pet the goats, llamas, turkeys, pigeons and “fancy chickens.”
If You Giggle When You Hear the Term Homo sapiens(History)
One of the best Anthropology museums in the country has a home on UNM campus. Start by following the four million-year journey of human origins, then learn specifically about Southwestern history. Also check out temporary exhibits like Slinging the Bull in Korea: An Adventure in Psychological Warfare and Weaving Generations Together: Evolving Creativity in the Maya of Chiapas Mexico. If it’s too hot to leave your house, the museum also offers several “virtual” exhibits on its website.
Honor those who suffered in the Holocaust by remembering them. The Holocaust and Intolerance Museum of New Mexico’s mission is to educate the public about the causes and effects of one of the most horrific genocides in human history. Through the end of May, two special exhibits will be up that highlight some of the heroes of the Holocaust, including Varian Fry, an American who helped save the lives of more than 2,000 Jews and anti-Nazis.
Museum of Archaeology and Material Culture
22 Calvary, Cedar Crest • 281-2005
This cozy museum, tucked off Hwy. 14 in Cedar Crest, is mostly devoted to Native American artifacts. Also check it out for displays on the Sandia Man cave and the old Turquoise Trail mining industry.
More than 1,300 pieces are on display in this compound, in which the buildings themselves also serve as historic works. From religious objects to household furnishings, carpenters’ tools to gold filigree jewelry, the museum’s artifacts provide a full picture of Spanish Colonial New Mexican life. Stop by on Saturday, May 15, for Heritage Day, when there will be music, performances and artist demonstrations from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the event is free.
If You Think a Rotary Phone Is Something Donated to Charity(Technology)
J&R Vintage Auto Museum
Telephone Museum of New Mexico
110 Fourth Street NW • 842-2937
Yep. We have a telephone museum. Housed in Albuquerque’s original telephone building, this unassuming space is packed with switchboards, telephones, photo galleries, audio exhibits and a large resource center. If you call ahead, you can also get guided tours.
Along with its permanent installations, a new exhibit is coming to Albuquerque’s favorite balloon-themed museum. Pieces of the Sky: The Balloon Museum Quilt Challenge features 16-inch square quilts of balloons made by local artists. The show opens May 16 and runs through May 2011.
Ever wonder what’s behind Madrid’s famous Mine Shaft Tavern? It’s this place, a museum bursting with old mining equipment, antique cars and trucks, medical equipment, loads of tools, and even an antique steam locomotive. Spooky and unlike any other place around.
Since admission prices can vary wildly by day and age of the entrant, we don't have the room to include them. Find out how much (or how little) learning will set you back by calling the museums or checking out their websites.