The Museum is the first U.S. institution devoted to Spanish colonial art. It's holdings are from the collections of Santa Fe's Spanish Colonial Arts Society. The 3,000 objects in the Museum's collections celebrate this art as a living tradition with roots in the late Middle Ages. The collections include devotional and decorative works and utilitarian objects, representing an artistic heritage of five centuries and four continents. Among the countries whose influences are reflected in the collections are Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil. Also included as expressions in colonial art are works from the Caribbean, the Philippines, and Goa. Objects from France, Italy, Greece, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Morocco, China, and Tibet also play roles in the collections, serving as points of comparison for Spanish colonial art throughout the Americas.
One of the most recent acquisitions is an entire wooden colonial house, built in Mexico about 1780. The house stands near the front entrance to the Museum, providing a contrast with John Gaw Meem's later interpretation of the architecture of Spain's northernmost colony.
The Museum is one of the world's primary resources for research and education in Spanish colonial art, and it has created the Stockman Collections Center to house 2,500 objects from the collection and a 1,000-volume library, a conservation laboratory, a conference room, and collections management offices. Docent-let tours give the public access to the study collections.
The mission of the Museum is "To preserve and honor the living tradition of Spanish colonial art forms, which the Museum recognizes as expressions of the world's first truly global culture. Looking outward from New Mexico, which was the northernmost reach of Spain's empire, the Museum views the full range of this culture across the world."