Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center awarded funding by NEH to further collections preservation


Contact: Circe Olson Woessner


August 30, 2019

Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center awarded funding by NEH to further collections preservation

Tijeras’ Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center has done it again with yet another award.  

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded funding to the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center to begin long-term preservation projects for its diverse collection of artifacts and documents. 

Dr. Allen Dale Olson, who is the museum’s secretary, says, “Our grant’s project title is, ‘We Also Served: Safeguarding our Heritage.’ Receiving a federal grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities indicates, to us, that the NEH believes that our collection is of national importance.”

The NEH grant will support the purchase of display and storage containers for letters and documents dating back to WWI and the restoration of an antique tiger skin, which is part of the Dorothy Cox collection of special artifacts. 

 The collections preservation award is timely as the museum recently survived a minor catastrophe when, due to heavy snow and ice, part of the gallery’s ceiling collapsed at the beginning of the year. All the artifacts survived damage, but it was a grim reminder of how important it is to preserve and protect precious objects and treasured keepsakes.

The Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center was one of only three organizations in New Mexico to receive a Humanities Grant in this cycle—and one of only 215 awardees nation-wide.

Director Dr. Circe Olson Woessner says, “While the museum is locally operated and staffed, it is national in scope, and much more than an array of artifacts, exhibits, and documents. It has also become a research center, a host for college interns, and a multidisciplinary collaborative site. It’s a community hub where veterans and family members can gather and reflect together on their collective identity over a century’s span of military deployment. It’s important that we preserve our collections properly. We have a Purple Heart, citation and dog tag from a World War I soldier, donated by his niece who is now in her 90s. There is no way one can assign a value to that, and it has become a charge for us to preserve and keep that soldier’s memory alive—as well as every other individual represented in our museum.”

It is the only museum completely dedicated to military family history, from all branches and eras.

Most of the artifacts have been donated since the museum’s inception in 2011. 

The museum has a collection of over 1,600 items, including coins, textiles, patches, paintings, pottery, photographs, letters, documents, and audiovisual materials that tell the history on the home front and abroad of American military families. The Dorothy Cox collection remains one of the museum’s star attractions because of its unique carvings and musical instruments from Africa and the Philippines, leather work and brass items from Turkey and Libya and a Victorian-era insect collection—and of, course, the tiger skin.

The museum’s special collections library has become a research destination for scholars and students around the world seeking more information about military spouses or children, or the DOD world-wide school systems.

San Francisco State University Professor Deborah Cohler, who has visited the museum multiple times, says, “The Museum of the American Military Family is not only a space of active community engagement and an important archival site, it also engages with the social, political, and intellectual stakes of public history and material culture. The museum has a substantial archival mission: it not only amasses material artifacts of military families, but its director and board actively solicit and collect oral histories, memoirs, and informal as well as formal narratives by members of military families.” 

This grant comes at the heels of several other awards of national scope, the latest being a sizable arts grant to provide workshops to military families in recovery from addiction, and another to create a ten-minute documentary film, “Love Song For the Dead,” which weaves together first- hand stories of wartime family sacrifices in a compelling reflection of such loss. In 2018, the museum received the American Association of State and Local History’s Albert B. Cory Prize, and this year, it received an Excellence in Leadership national award. 

The Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center is an all-volunteer non-profit honoring the men, women, and children who serve beside America’s service members. As a repository of artifacts, letters, documents and photos, it tells their stories, showing history through a different lens. 

The museum is located at 546B State Highway 333 (Old 66, right next to Molly’s Bar.) It is open 10:30-5:00 Saturday through Wednesday and by appointment.

For more information, email info@militaryfamilymuseum.orgor phone (505) 504-6830