Date of Graduation
Bachelor of Arts
Committee Member/Second Reader
Committee Member/Third Reader
Museums hold an esteemed position that grants validity to the objects and history held within them based solely on their inherent authority as institutions. This makes the analysis of what museums portray incredibly important given the extent of people’s belief that they hold the power to determine authoritative truth concerning art, history, and society. In the late 1970s, museums underwent a period of change tied to becoming more pluralistic. Beginning in the 1990s, many museums touted their postcolonial status in the wake of their inclusion of and collaboration with traditionally outsider communities. Despite this change appearing to create more diverse and representative museum collections and displays, actual power remains within the firm control of the intellectual elite. Additionally, the roots of museums in imperialism and colonialism continue to affect modern institutional practices and public perceptions of museums. They began as ideological tools for the expression of political power by nations involved in imperialism that sought to claim national and racial superiority. Their power came from their ability to control, order, and classify objects in a manner that identified these imperial nations as the peak of progress. This history places museums into a system of white supremacy that continues to affect them in the present day, as the practices established during this period continue to impact the methods of modern museums despite attempts to create representative spaces. My research examines the complications that occur at museums as they attempt to represent marginalized communities that have been historically excluded from museum spaces. It further questions whether museums can be tools for marginalized communities to assert their identity and goals within museums’ institutional history of white superiority and imperialism. These issues are investigated through an analysis of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art (MoSCA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. MoSCA is a branch of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society (SCAS), which was founded in 1925 by a group of Anglo artists and writers interested in the revival of Spanish colonial art in the Santa Fe Hispano community. Elizabeth Boyd White revived the society in the 1950s and began to expand its collection by reactivating the society’s market and encouraging the production of religious arts in the Hispano community. In 1998, the society began planning to create a museum to house its collections, which opened to the public in July of 2002 as the only museum whose sole purpose is displaying Spanish colonial style art. The museum serves as the physical expression of the society’s goals of preserving the art style with its collection of historical and contemporary Spanish colonial art created by Hispano artists. The society compliments its museum work, and expands its collection, through the biannual Spanish Market held in Santa Fe each year. MoSCA presents itself as a site for Hispano empowerment through artistic expression of the traditional Spanish Colonial art style that emphasizes the Spanish colonial heritage of Hispanos in New Mexico. However, I argue that it falls short of being a truly representative tool for the Hispano community in practice because of a lack of shared authority with the community.
depiction of history; museum display; Spanish Colonial Arts Society; Santa Fe, New Mexico; ideology; Hispano
Snyder, E. (2022). The Political Power of Museums: A Case Study on the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. History Undergraduate Honors Theses Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/histuht/9