Andrew Wulf, whose four-year tenure as director of the New Mexico History Museum was marked by cultural controversies in recent months, has been fired.
Wulf’s termination was confirmed Friday by Cultural Affairs Secretary-designate Debra Garcia y Griego.
“We just wanted to go in a different direction,” Garcia y Griego told The New Mexican, adding that Wulf’s last day at work was Friday.
Wulf, 47, who became museum director in 2015, was making $91,441 a year, according to the state’s Sunshine Portal. He couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Garcia y Griego said the museum’s board of regents will soon begin its search for a new director.
Before he was hired at the museum, Wulf, a California native, worked for five years as supervisory museum curator at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif., where he helped guide the $12 million renovation of that facility.
Wulf earned a Master of Art in art history and museum studies from the University of Southern California in 2005 and a doctoral degree in museum studies in 2013 from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.
When he was first hired, Wulf told The New Mexican he’d been intensively studying New Mexico history. “I understand the immense expectations on the director of the history museum to have a very comprehensive understanding of New Mexico’s history, but I would never pretend to be an expert. It’s nothing I step into lightly at all. I really do take the history and the learning curve very seriously.”
But some of his decisions, particularly related to Santa Fe’s history and traditions, put Wulf in the hot seat.
In July, he angered some locals when he said he wanted to stop the Santa Fe Fiesta Council’s tradition of hanging colorful wooden plaques bearing Spanish coats of arms of local families’ ancestors across the front of the Palace of the Governors during Fiesta de Santa Fe. He said hanging the plaques was damaging wood beams on the adobe building, which was erected by Spanish colonists in the early 1600s.
“We just can’t keep nailing things” to the building, he said.
Following protests from the Fiesta Council, Wulf relented and the plaques were displayed during last year’s event.
In November 2017, Wulf decided to get rid of the four “devils” who for at least 30 years had been part of a popular downtown Christmas-season pageant. In the annual Las Posadas, overseen by the museum, actors portraying the devils heckle Mary and Joseph from nearby buildings as they walk in a procession.
“We’re just reverting back to the traditional practice of Las Posadas, which has innkeepers in those roles,” Wulf said at the time. “Why would a devil be saying, ‘There’s no room in the inn?’ ”
The devils returned in 2018.
Wulf also was criticized in 2017, when the museum hosted a “Fiesta Symposium,” focusing on the history of the Pueblo Revolt, the reconquest and Fiesta de Santa Fe with a panel that did not include any local Hispanics.