Zimmerman Murals

"The Zimmerman Library is listed in the National Register of Historic Places under the Architectural Classification - Late 19th and Early 20th Century Revivals: Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival. The four-panel Kenneth Adams mural Three Peoples is included as a 'contributing object' to the Zimmerman Library building. The 2016 nomination wording lacks solid evidence as to why the four canvas oil paintings pasted on to the walls are historically integral to the library building.” (Sisneros 2020). Despite the inclusion of the mural with the Library designation in the National Register, the Adams mural has been controversial since its installation. In subsequent eras, students, staff, and faculty have lodged multiple complaints and protests against the mural (initially, in 1970s, 1993-95, and throughout the 2000s/2010s until today). On April 29, 2016, a UNM Native American student group brought up the paintings in their "Abolition of Racist Imagery and Cultural Appropriation" statement. This statement was read and given to UNM Board of Regents over two months before the July 8, 2016 submittal of the Zimmerman Library building register nomination. Simultaneously, UNM library staff wrote a statement for the removal of the mural and circulated it for signatures on October 24, 2016 (drafts emailed out months earlier). Their main reasons for calling for the removal of the paintings was that they believe the artwork creates a hostile work and study environment and it is not a viable educational tool. The statement was signed by twenty library staff and faculty and sent on Nov. 2, 2016, to the Dean of the University Libraries. The dean then forwarded it to UNM's Office of Equal Opportunity, Academic Affairs, and the VP for Equity and Inclusion on Nove. 4, 2016.

Additionally, a Zimmerman Mural Planning Committee and Course made recommendations on how to address the nearly 8 decades of protest concerning the offensive content within the mural. Final recommendations were provided to the Provost and President in 2018.

The latest action calling for removing or occlusion of the mural was a June 15, 2020 online petition, Remove Adams's "Three Peoples" paintings from Zimmerman Library at UNM. The petition was signed by 1,010 persons. See: https://https://www.change.org/p/university-of-new-mexico-remove-and-replace-adams-three-peoples-paintings-from-zimmerman-library-at-the-unm?recruiter=1117051571&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_petition&utm_term=G%3ESearch%3ESAP%3EUS%3ENonBrand%3EBMM&recruited_by_id=14ba1300-af1e-11ea-a6a4-69f61b71cc59

Zimmerman Library is on the National Register of Historic Places (as per US Dept of Interior, National Park Service). This requires State Historical Preservation Officeapproval before we can make changes to permanent aspects of the building. Please note that there are some that believe further investigation needs to take place to determine if this can be challenged.

Zimmerman Murals

Occlusion Timeline

  • Proposal to UNM HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMITTEE (HPC) for review to install FlexShade® motorized retractable covers to protect, display and cover the Kenneth Adams Murals that are on permanent display in Zimmerman Library. Revisions requested and submitted 13 August 2020.
  • UNM HPC provided an endorsement and 17 August 2020, proposal was sent to the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO). SHPO can rule as an “adverse effect” which can prolong things substantially or they can rule “no adverse effect”, which would allow us to proceed.
  • State Historical Preservation Office review time frame is up to 30 days.
  • Implementation of proposed plan – ASAP with construction time of about a week.
  • A temporary shade was installed during the 2021 spring semester. Image below. 


Adams Mural Shades


















Suggested sources:

Sisneros, Samuel. Student Activism and the Three Peoples Paintings Challenging Settler Mythology at the University of New Mexico. Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies44:1 Spring 2019

Sisneros, Samuel E. "The Zimmerman Library Mural in the National Register of Historic Places: A Working Paper and Timeline." (2020). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/ulls_fsp/143


 Murals Archive