Good things, it is often said, come to those who wait. On that point, you may not get an argument from the new director of the El Pueblo History Museum. Dianne Archuleta has just been named the museum’s new leader and only a few years after a epiphanous college internship landed her there.
Her path to the top spot at the birthplace of the city, which is where the museum now sits just off of Main Street and the business district, is equal parts strange, intriguing and curious. Archuleta, a Pueblo native and one of eleven children---a triplet, at that---took a circuitous path to her most recent landing spot. “I dropped out of high school,” she said in a recent telephone interview. “I was out of high school for twenty-one years.” But Archuleta is nothing if not resilient. She earned a GED certificate, returned to college, graduating at age forty, all the while raising her son. Between her abbreviated high school days and earning her college degree, Archuleta worked as a paralegal, proving to herself that she had a lot to offer and not simply as a valued asset in one of Pueblo’s highest profile law firms, Koncilja and Koncilja, whose offices are just blocks away from her current job.
She discovered skills in the job that had never been fully explored or exploited. “Attorneys go to court,” she said, “but paralegals do a lot of the background work.” She also found a comfort level and ease communicating with “people from all walks of life.” These tools essential “to help run this museum.”
Her museum baptism began with an internship that later turned into a full-time job. In 2017, Archuleta became the El Pueblo operations manager, helping support not only the Pueblo facility but “eight museums all around Colorado.” The job involved everything from facilities to budget to “working on big projects,” she said. She used the job to learn not only every corner of El Pueblo but the best and strategic use of signage, security procedures, lighting exhibits and even a bit about cameras, all essential tools when you’re entrusted with oftentimes priceless works of art.
Archuleta’s college years were fruitful in countless ways, but none more than the awakening it provided to what she missed growing up. “One of the things that really started changing my course was a Chicano Studies minor,” she said. The class and one of her professors, Jose Ortega, were instrumental in this new passion. It was, for her, a renaissance moment. “During that course of work I really came to understand how much Chicano education I had missed.” She has tried to make up for the void every day in her new role.
For the time being, Archuleta will concentrate her energy on learning the intricacies of her new job all the while readying for new shows El Pueblo has had in the pipeline. A presentation by the Mexican Academy of Dance is slated for a “soft open” on September 21st. Its official launch is set for October 5th.
Also coming soon to El Pueblo and an exciting undertaking by Archuleta and the museum is “Merciless Indian Savages,” an artwork presentation of paintings by Native American artist Gregg Deal. It’s an artful examination of the intellectual flatlining that has plagued American history and negatively depicted Native Americans over countless generations. Deal works to show new and eye-opening images of Native people that not only confront stereotypes but at the same time shines a light on the treasure that indigenous people have always been to the nation.
As she grows into her new role at El Pueblo, Archuleta wants for the museum what the community wants, as well. “My wish list would consist of local stories,” she said. “Our museum of memory work has been part of the process.” The project is simple: to bring together local people to archive oral histories. “If we don’t know,” said the rookie museum director, “how are we ever going to work together and make our communities stronger.”