Commencement 2024 Information

Commencement 2024 Information

Graduate Student Helps Implement New Mexico Cultural Atlas Mobile App

photo of two people

Photo: Rick Loffredo/Highlands University
Media arts graduate student Matthew Gallegos, left, talks with his New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs mentor, Doug Patinka, interim chief information officer at DCA. Gallegos helped implement the Cultural Atlas of New Mexico mobile app for the agency.

Las Vegas, New Mexico – A Highlands University student helped implement an interactive mobile app that puts New Mexico’s cultural and historical sites at the finger tips of travelers and state residents though their smart phones.

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs created the Cultural Atlas of New Mexico app with technical support from Matthew Gallegos, a Highlands media arts graduate student.

“Matthew was a critical member of the team in developing the cultural atlas app,” said Doug Patinka, interim chief information officer at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Gallegos’ mentor. “His involvement ranged from project planning, database development and website programming to photography and training partners in using the content management system for the app.”

Patinka said the cultural atlas mobile app allows people to discover places of cultural interest to them throughout New Mexico, with more than 800 photos, a New Mexico map integrated with the user’s phone-mapping software, and written highlights of the sites.

image of cultural app

Image courtesy of New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs
These phone screen shots display different views within the Cultural Atlas of New Mexico app.

“As an example, if someone is at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe they can open the app and find all the nearby museums like the New Mexico Museum of Art,” Patinka said.

He said the app aims to increase visitors to the New Mexico sites. The app is available as a free download on Google Play and the Apple App Store. Or visit and use the cultural atlas link. The app is compatible with Apple and Android devices.

Gallegos, a Las Vegas, New Mexico native, is a paid intern in Highlands’ one-of-a kind AmeriCorps Cultural Technology program, or ACT. The program is an ongoing partnership with New Mexico DCA that places media arts students in cultural institutions statewide.

“The database I created for the app has the dual purpose of holding all the content for the app and providing an archive that the DCA staff can use to update the content,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos also photographed some sites for the app like Ft. Union National Monument, City of Las Vegas Museum, and the Dwan Light Sanctuary at the United World College – USA north of Las Vegas.

“The photography was very satisfying artistically,” Gallegos said.

He said that as a New Mexico native, the most interesting element of the app project was learning about the cultural sites he never knew existed in the state.

“Our state is so rich and diverse in its history, culture and natural wonders. It was a real privilege to work on this project to make this information about New Mexico so easy to access,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos used his knowledge of computer coding, data organization, and web development to build the database for the app. As an undergraduate at Highlands, he earned a B.A. in media arts and a B.S. in computer science in 2011. Gallegos made the dean’s list every year.

“Matthew’s blend of media arts and computer science expertise made him a perfect fit for this cultural atlas app project and other technology projects he developed as a DCA intern like an online catalogue of the Museum of New Mexico Press,” Patinka said. “I’ve had six or seven Highlands media arts interns. I’m always impressed with their skills and how they apply their knowledge to create innovate multimedia projects in a museum setting.”