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We Built This City


This exhibition from the Museum's Photo Archives permanent collection showcases the men and women who paved the roads and built the businesses we use as our everyday landmarks to navigate Albuquerque.

Albuquerque is a crossroads of people, culture, and landscape. It is situated in a valley along the Rio Grande at the northernmost edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest desert in North America. The city sits between lava escarpments to the south and west, and the Sandia and Manzano Mountains to the north and east. People have lived here for centuries: building homes, communal spaces, and trading posts in this river valley.

This area has been known by many names, but today, over half a million people call the city of Albuquerque home. Many of our streets, neighborhoods, and landmarks bear the names of prominent families or business people who planned the area, gave money for development, or otherwise made a mark on the city’s history. But there are people who know the city in ways most of us do not: the thousands of men and women who built roads, installed utilities, and constructed buildings. They are the authors of a unique biography of Albuquerque. We live our lives among the shadows of centuries of people whose skill and determination turned this valley into a metropolis. Unskilled labor to trades union masters, teenagers and adults, citizens and immigrants, imprisoned and free, more than anyone, they are the people who know the shifting floodplains and the sandhills and have seen the traces of what and who was here before us. They hold the stories of the city they built.