New Mexico Digital Collections

About this collection

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Jesse Logan Nusbaum was born September 3, 1887 in Greeley, Colorado, the son of parents who were members of the original Greeley Colony organized by Horace Greeley. Following graduation from State Normal School in Greeley in 1907, Nusbaum took a teaching position at New Mexico State Normal in Las Vegas, New Mexico where he became the youngest professor teaching science and the manual arts. Following his first year of teaching, Nusbaum was hired by Dr. Edgar L. Hewett as part of the first archaeological expedition to Mesa Verde under the auspices of the Archaeological Institute of America. In 1916-17, Nusbaum supervised the construction of the Fine Arts Museum built across the street from the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe.

When he first came to work in Santa Fe, Nusbaum’s primary responsibility was the restoration of the Palace of the Governors. He was provided with a little room off of territorial Governor George Curry’s apartments to call home. He received $100 a month to live on so he slept for a while on the floor in his sleeping bag and set up his photo equipment in the same room until better quarters for working were restored in the north patio area of the Palace. Nusbaum worked on periodic restoration of the Palace from 1909 (as occupants vacated) until the autumn of 1913 when he completed the portal

During the years of restoration on the Palace, Nusbaum managed to find time to accompany the SAR expeditions to Central America. Between 1910 and 1913 he visited Mexico to excavate and photograph ruins at Tulum; Chichén Itzá; Cozumel; Uxmal; Merida; Campeche; he also went to Guatemala to photograph at Antigua and Guatemala City; and to Copan in Honduras. During this time he also worked on surveying and photographing excavations and renovations of ruins closer to home. In 1908 he worked on the restoration of ruins at Mesa Verde and was actively involved with the entire restoration process. Nusbaum photographed before and after excavation and repair. Under the auspices of the Department of the Interior, Nusbaum was the first superintendent at Mesa Verde National Park, established on June 29, 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, and remained in the position until March 15, 1931. He also worked at el Rito de las Frijoles (now Bandelier National Monument) from 1909 – 1911 and between 1913 and 1916 Nusbaum assisted in the excavation and repair of the Pecos Ruins (now Pecos National Monument). From 1918 – 1921, Nusbaum worked on the excavations at Hawikuh, New Mexico, for the Museum of the American Indian. Much later, in 1939 he made a trip with Dr. H. E. Bolton and others to retrace Escalante’s route from Kaibito Springs to the Crossing of the Fathers in Arizona. The National Park Service opened a regional office in Santa Fe in 1938 and Nusbaum was appointed to the position of Senior Archaeologist and the consulting archaeologist to the Department of the Interior, a position he held until 1958.

In 1914-15 Nusbaum accepted a commission from the Santa Fe Railway Co. to construct an exhibition for the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. The Painted Desert, in the commercial section of the exposition, occupied five and a half acres of a living history museum/diorama showing Native American life in New Mexico and Arizona. According to many accounts, the living village, constructed at a cost of about $150,000, was one of the most popular at the fair.

In 1931, Nusbaum returned to Santa Fe to build the Laboratory of Anthropology, becoming its first director, a position he held until 1936. In 1954, Nusbaum received the Distinguished Service Medal and Citation from the Department of the Interior for his supervision of archaeological work on the Permian-San Juan Cross-over Line completed in 1954. In 1958 Nusbaum retired to write and work on his home on Camino del Monte Sol in Santa Fe. In 1963 he became an Honorary Fellow of the School of American Research. He died on December 21, 1975.

For information about using this collection contact the Palace of the Governors Photoarchives.

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