Yee-Haw! History Museum Wins National Award for Cowboys Real and Imagined

4-72-Cowboys_Bucking Bronco-200061The American Association for State and Local History will bestow an Award of Merit for Leadership in History on the New Mexico History Museum in honor of the excellence achieved by Cowboys Real and Imagined. The award recognizes the 2013-2014 exhibition, its public programs, and the publication of Jack Thorp’s Songs of the Cowboys by the Press at the Palace of the Governors.

“The staff of the museum brought intelligence, inventiveness and a lot of hard work to Cowboys,” said interim Director Jon Hunner. “This award is shared by the entire staff, our generous donors and the many visitors who enjoyed our hospitality—especially the ones who `cowboyed up’ and practiced roping a dummy calf.”

From April 14, 2013, through March 16 of this year, Cowboys Real and Imagined was a major exhibition that traced the cowboy’s roots in Spanish New Mexico and carried his (and her!) story through modern-day rodeos, movies, singers and ranch hands struggling through climate change. Programming was funded by the New Mexico Humanities Council, which shares in the AASLH award. Special programming events included classic cowboy movie nights; panel discussions and presentations that focused on gay cowboys, Hispanic cowboys, Jewish cowboys, and African American cowboys; musical performances; and a Wild West Weekend with re-enactors and demonstrators.

Jack Thorp’s Songs of the Cowboys represents the first fine-press printing of the classic book, which was born in New Mexico and, in a way, gave birth to country-western music. Tom Leech, director of the Palace Press, and Arlyn Nathan, a book designer and typography instructor at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, also won the esteemed Carl Hertzog Award from the University of Texas at El Paso for the caliber of the book’s production.

Throughout its run, Cowboys Real and Imagined drew a steady stream of visitors and was so admired that portions of the exhibit live on. Cowboys: The Real Deal opens June 26 at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces. The exhibit helped the museum earn a 2013 “Cowboy Keepers Award” from the National Day of the Cowboy.

The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in their 69th year, are the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. In a media release, AASLH said it is conferring 77 national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, books and organizations. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history. The awards will be presented during the 2014 AASLH Annual Meeting in St. Paul, Minn., on Sept. 19.

The AASLH awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States. For more information about the awards, contact AASLH at 615-320-3203, or go to

The American Association for State and Local History is a not-for-profit professional organization of individuals and institutions working to preserve and promote history. From its headquarters in Nashville, AASLH provides leadership, service, and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful in American society. AASLH publishes books, technical publications, a quarterly magazine, and monthly newsletter. The association also sponsors regional and national training workshops and an annual meeting.

Image above: Unidentified cowboy on bucking horse, ca. 1922-1934. Tex Austin Collection. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives 200061.