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Jesse L. Nusbaum Collection

Identifier: PAC 017

Scope and Content

Materials included original 5 x 7 glass plate negatives, 5 x 7 vintage prints, and nitrate film negatives of various sizes. Many of the vintage 5 x 7 contact prints have notes on the back written in pencil by Jesse Nusbaum and notes in ball point pen by his wife, Rosemary Nusbaum. There are also other notes in unidentified handwriting in both pen and pencil on the back of the photographs.

Some 5 x 7 vintage photos have a small stamp on bottom edge: MEJ Colter or H. H. Dorman Collection, various other collections listed include: Bradfield, C. Buell Collection, Neil Judd, and R.E.Twitchell. Additionally, there is a stamp is on the back of some of the earliest photos: “Photo by Jess Nusbaum, Greeley, Colo.”

Subjects include: views from Greeley Colorado, Las Vegas, Lamy, Taos, and Santa Fe, NM; archaeological views of Puyi, Pecos Ruins (now Pecos National Monument), El Rito de los Frijoles (now Bandelier National Monument), Mesa Verde, McElmo Canyon, Hovenweep, Chichén Itzá, Tulum, Cozumel, Uxmal, Merida, Campeche, Antiqua and Guatemala City in Guatemala, and Copan in Honduras; views of the 1915 San Diego Exposition; the Palace of the Governors before and after the 1909-1913 renovation; and the New Mexico Pueblos: Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Jemez, Isleta, Zuni, Tesuque, Taos, Santa Ana, Picuris, and San Juan. Also included are vintage prints of furniture, lamps fabricated copper implements, and armaments that he and his students designed and built while he was teaching at New Mexico State Normal School.

The following HP numbers are included in the Nusbaum collection: HP.1974.28 Donation of photographic materials by Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Nusbaum HP.1975.53 Donation of photographic materials by Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Nusbaum HP.1976.23 Donation of photographic materials by Mrs. Jesse Nusbaum, executor of the estate of Jesse L. Nusbaum HP.1978.20 Neg. # 60447 – one framed photo HP.1983.07 Listed on the back of several photos but nothing in the acquisition paperwork mentions Nusbaum. HP.1986.35 Photographic material transferred from the Lab of Anthropology HP.1990.34 Written on back of a few photos, but there is no HP 90.34 in the HP Source Guide or in the acquisitions records HP.1994.05 Photographic material transferred from the Lab of Anthropology

Glass Lantern Slides – no photos by Nusbaum, he collected lantern slides by other photographers. No HP number.


  • 1906 - 1939
  • Majority of material found in Placeholder Unit Date Text

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Nusbaum photographed extensively at the eight northern New Mexico Pueblos, the collectin contains many positive and negative images of kivas, ceremonial shrines, and dances as well as burial sites with human remains from excavations at Bandelier and Pecos. Permission from tribal government is necesary to view these images.

Copy Restrictions

Permission to publish must be obtained from Photo Archives. Online Request Permission form available at: User responsible for all copyright compliance.

Biographical Information

Jesse Logan Nusbaum was born September 3, 1887 in Greeley, Colorado, the son of Mr. Edward Moore Nusbaum and his wife Agnes Strickland (Moodie). His parents were members of the original Greeley Colony organized by Horace Greeley. His father, Edward, was a contractor and owned a brickyard; Nusbaum learned the building trade as his apprentice. Edward also taught Jesse to hunt, fish, and ride horses, all of these skills proved useful for the rest of his life. Years later, when Nusbaum was working for the Museum of New Mexico, his father accompanied him on several of his archaeological expeditions, and is pictured in several photographs assisting at various sites. Nusbaum earned a degree in pedagogy from the State Normal School in Greeley where he starred on both the basketball and football teams. Following graduation 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 along with Sylvanus G. Morley, who came to Santa Fe from Harvard, and Alfred Vincent Kidder as part of the first archaeological expedition to Mesa Verde under the auspices of the Archaeological Institute of America. Nusbaum was both scientist and photographer documenting the project. After two summers at Mesa Verde, Hewett invited Nusbaum and Morley to become the first two employees of both the newly instituted School of American Research (SAR) and the Museum of New Mexico in June 1909. Dr. Kenneth C. Chapman joined the small staff a year later. Essentially self-taught from working with Hewett, a few advanced classes at George Washington University and the University of Colorado, and through his own reading, forty years after his graduation from Colorado State Normal at Greeley, Nusbaum returned to accept an honorary Doctor of Science degree. In 1916-17, Nusbaum supervised the construction of the Fine Arts Museum built across the street from the Palace of the Governors. As construction on the museum was nearing completion Frank Springer purchased the home directly behind the building for Hewett (now the MNM Foundation offices) who was director of the new art museum as well as being director of the Palace of the Governors and the School of American Research, and asked Nusbaum to restore it in character with the new museum then under construction. Nusbaum was much in demand for renovations and assisted Morley with the restoration of his home conducting an extensive before and after documentation of the house with his camera. He also worked with the White sisters, Amelia Elizabeth and Martha, in the construction of their home and built much of the furniture still in use at SAR today.

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. According to Rosemary Nusbaum’s notes, (Rosemary Nusbaum was Jesse’s second wife, see below) Dr. Hewett found pictures (drawings?) of the original portal for the Palace of the Governors in Spain and Nusbaum ensured that the 1909-1913 renovation conformed to the original. (See negative number 6719).

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 with Morley and Chapman 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 for the ethnologist Jesse Walter Fewkes who published the images in his series Antiquities of the Mesa Verde. Under the auspices Department of the Interior, Nusbaum was the first superintendent at Mesa Verde National Park, established on June 29, 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Nusbaum was appointed on June 4, 1921 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 where, according to the notes on the back of several of the photographs, he hand-made the ladder at Ceremonial Cave. Between 1913 and 1916 Nusbaum assisted Kidder in the excavation and repair of the Pecos Ruins (now Pecos National Monument). From 1918 – 1921, Nusbaum worked with the Frederick Hodge Expedition during 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. The village consisted of two large pueblo groups, trading posts, desert scenery, and geological and topographical features that formed the largest Indian exhibit that had ever been constructed to date in the United States.

In 1920, Nusbaum married Aileen Baehrens O’Bryan (d. 1979), and the couple divorced in 1939. O’Bryan had one son, Deric (1913-1987), an archaeologist, who sometimes used Nusbaum’s surname. He is pictured in a few of the Nusbaum photographs In 1947, Jesse Nusbaum married Rosemary Lewis Rife (1908-1990) of Marquette, Michigan. The couple was married in Santa Fe on December 11, 1947. Rosemary graduated in 1929 with an R.N. degree from the University Hospital of Nursing, in Chicago, Illinois. She served in the Eighth Corps Area of the Army as a Medical Pathologist, stationed at Bruns General Hospital in Santa Fe during World War II. A sculptor and ceramicist, Rosemary was a friend of the Morleys who introduced the couple. Rosemary also wrote short stories, verse, and articles which were published in the Santa Fean, the New Mexico Magazine, and the Denver Post as well as several anthologies of poetry all published in the 1940s. She spent a great deal of time working with her husband to organize his photographic materials before they were donated to the Photo Archives at the Palace of the Governors in the 1970s. Following Nusbaum’s death, she wrote two manuscripts on his life’s work. Rosemary Nusbaum had two daughters from her previous marriage to Dr. Dwight Rife, Lavinia (d. 1960) and Rosemary (1933-2003).

In 1931, Nusbaum returned to Santa Fe to build the Laboratory of Anthropology, becoming its first director, a position he held until 1936. Back at Mesa Verde, in 1950 he learned that the El Paso Natural Gas Company was going to construct a 450 mile long pipeline with 300 miles of lateral distribution lines across New Mexico; he negotiated an agreement under the Antiquities Act, in which the gas company would pay for the cost of archaeological excavations of the lands disturbed by the pipeline. Nusbaum supervised the entire project: at the end of July, 1958 thirty-nine archaeologists had surveyed 1315 sites within the right of way in an area covering 6665 miles for 12 interconnected projects in the Western have of the United States from Washington to New Mexico. 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.


13 Linear Feet

Collection Available Online

The Jesse Nusbaum Collection is available at New Mexico's Digital Collections

Related Material

See the artist’s files in the Photo Archives at the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum for additional biographical information. See also the Colorado Historical Society, the Western History Collection at the Denver Public Library, the Museum of the American Indian, and XXX for additional material. The Denver Public Library has 357 Nusbaum prints and about half as many 5x7 glass negatives. These came to the Library with the collection of Louis McClure, a Denver commercial photographer who did work for Nusbaum, primarily copying prints and making lantern slides.

See the Edgar L. Hewett manuscript collection and the clippings files in the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library for extensive correspondence between Nusbaum & Hewett.

See the Jesse L. Nusbaum Papers, 1921-1958, National Park Sevice History Collection RG-5, Harpers Ferry Center, WV

See also the Papers of Jesse Logan Nusbaum at the Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives, Washington, DC

See also the Guide to the Hendricks-Hodge Archaeological Expedition Papers. 1917-1923. Collection Number: 9170 Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections Cornell University Library. The National Museum of the American Indian Archives, Smithsonian Institution, houses the photograph collection, consisting of 1,224 negatives by several photographers, including Nusbaum.

The Smithsonian Institution has a small collection of Nusbaum images, primarily taken during his employment for the 1913 archaeological survey of the Cebollita Valley, near Grants, NM, directed by F.W. Hodge. Housed in the collection “Glass Negatives of Indians (Collected by the Bureau of American Ethnology)

The Peabody Museum, Harvard, has a collection of Nusbaum photographs, primarily of Quirigua ruins and monuments. These were given to Sylvanus Morley, and transferred to the Peabody collections with the photographic archive of the Carnegie institution or Washington.

Rosemary Nusbaum published many Nusbaum images in her books, The City Different and the Palace (Santa Fe, Sunstone Press, 1978), and Tierra Dulce: Reminiscences from the Jesse Nusbaum Papers (Santa Fe, Sunstone Press, 1980). Generally, Photo Archives does not have negatives for these images, and holds only copy prints for a few.

Separated Material

Glass Plate Negatives are housed by negative number in the cabinets in the negative room. The Nusbaum glass plates are not shelved together in one sequential order; other negatives are interspersed depending on their acquisition into the collection.

Glass Lantern Slides both made and collected Jesse Nusbaum, housed in the negative room Tier 1 / Shelf 4.

Transferred to History Collections Nusbaum’s camera outfit: 4 x 5 crown graphic camera, serial number 960674, flash gun, dark cloth, 2 film pack adaptors, 2 empty film boxes, 1 red filter, 1 filter adapter ring.


The Jesse Nusbaum Collection is available at New Mexico's Digital Collections
Jesse L. Nusbaum Collection, 1906 - 1939
Edited Full Draft
© 2010
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the NMHM Palace of the Governors Photo Archives Repository

113 Lincoln Ave.
Santa Fe NM 87501 USA