Saturday, October 3, 2015

Historicall Challenged Historical Society

The Arizona Historical Society makes the following boast on its website at:

Established by an Act of the First Territorial Legislature on November 7, 1864, the Arizona Historical Society (AHS) is Arizona’s oldest historical agency. Architects of the Territory’s code of laws realized they were making history and that it was important to preserve a record of their activities. One of their earliest actions was to create the means for documenting the past and recording contemporary events as they unfolded. This became the Arizona Historical Society, formed to collect and preserve “all facts relating to the history of this Territory".
 It is very difficult to comprehend how any historical society could make such a major historical error. The following correction was distributed to 700 media contacts last week and is currently being printed in news papers across Arizona.

The Arizona Historical Society, now a state agency, proudly boasts that it was founded in 1864. Unfortunately, the claim is not true.  An organization called the Arizona Historical Society was established in1864 by the first territorial legislature in Prescott, but it faded into oblivion in the 1870s. The first AHS had no known connection to the present day AHS which was founded in Tucson in 1884 by Charles D. Poston. When established, it was named the Society of Arizona Pioneers, and it was primarily an elite social organization that excluded many people.  The name did not become the Arizona Historical Society until nearly a century later.
If the present day AHS cannot even properly interpret its own history, why are Arizona taxpayers giving it millions of dollars per year to preserve Arizona history?

Monday, September 28, 2015

More on UA

When this blog began in 2010, the stated objective was "reassigning the Arizona mineral collection from the Arizona Historical Society back to an entity with appropriate scientific credentials".  Certainly, the UA meets that criteria.

Initial opposition to the UA option (on this blog) was based on preliminary information stating that the AHS would remain in  control  of the mineral collection and it would simply be displayed in Tucson in conjunction with the UA. Such an arrangement would be completely unsatisfactory and even illegal.

Subsequent information suggests there may be legislation to transfer the mineral collection from the AHS to the UA via revised state statutes. Such a solution would be resisted by those who prefer to reopen the mineral musuem in Phoenix, but it does meet the objectives of this blog as stated in 2010.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Plan B

Following the veto of the mineral museum restoration bill (SB1200), some former mineral museum supporters now favor the new plan to move the collection to Tucson and into a new UA museum.  They believe (correctly) that nearly any state agency is better equipped to preserve the mineral collection than the AHS is. However, details for this plan are not yet well defined.

Will control of the collection actually be transferred to the UA?

Or, will the UA and the AHS simply be room mates in a new Tucson museum with the AHS remaining in control of the mineral collection?

Finally, are the planners aware that the state statutes must be revised to transfer control of the collection from AHS to the UA?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

U of A enters the fray

From the Sep 17, 2015 draft AHS Board Meeting Minutes

Woosley stated that AHS has been contacted by the University of Arizona with plans relating to an expanded UA/AHS mineral museum. Objectives of this collaborative effort include exhibitions, education, and outreach programming around the state. Woosley will work closely with key members of the University to draft a letter to define respective roles for the project.
Does the U of A realize that they are proposing a violation of Arizona statutes (Allen amendment to centennial musuem bill)?

Is the U of A really comfortable stealing a mineral musuem from K-12  students in Phoenix, especially since Tucson already has one?

Reference: The Allen amendment to Arizona Revised Statute 41-827 was specifically passed to preserve the mineral museum and K-12 education programs in Phoenix.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Guest Post

To:    Richard Zimmermann, Mineral Museum Madness Blog
I have followed your blog since it began, and have to compliment you on your tenacious research on the Arizona Historical Society and its total disservice to our state over the botched Centennial mess.   At this point you obviously understand AHS better than they do, and despite the new President of the Board attempting to defend and explain their actions, we still don’t have the truth.  Your recent focus on the funding redundancy in favor of AZ History in our state is well taken and a legislative fix is long overdue. 
As an educator, I am amazed at the hopeless imbalance in state funding for AZ history vs. science education for our students.   The state of AZ funds the state history archives and the excellent history museum at the state capitol.  This costs about $8 million a year.  As you have outlined, the state also pours $3+ million into the AHS, plus the millions embedded in the Department of Administration which manages state buildings, including all of the ones assigned to AHS. If you can get accurate statistics from the state, the amount spent on history is very high.  As an educator I am not against history, but when AZ ranks at the bottom of the states in education, we have to be realistic—AZ history is not on any national tests for our students.  Compare this to the amount of funding our state gives state agencies for science education.  The only state science agency that I found is the AZ Geological Survey, and they get only about 10% of their budget ($915,000), the rest they fund themselves.   Science is a big problem area for AZ educationally, and it is on national tests.  AZ had one Earth Science Museum (the popular Mining and Mineral Museum) which occupied one state building dedicated by the legislature as its permanent home and had only one state paid employee (the curator). This group funded all other positions by itself.  This successful scientific effort was given to the non-scientific AHS and was shut down to celebrate the Centennial.  The building is empty and our governor vetoed the mineral museum restoration bill (SB1200) that passed almost unanimously in both houses of the legislature—AHS appears to want the building for a reception center for lobbyists.  WE HAVE TO GET OUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT IN ARIZONA IF WE EXPECT TO COMPETE EDUCATIONALLY.

I want to urge you and all those who supported the legislators who want the MMM reinstated under true scientific management to go back and try again.  Your case is too strong to let politics and lobbyists rob our students.  Since the state is now requiring students to pass a civics test, perhaps AHS could redirect its educational efforts to helping schools in this area, and let science to the scientists.

I prefer to remain anonymous, as educational funding is a hot issue and districts and institutions have had some backlash.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Historical Society struggling with recent history

On August 7th, the Scottsdale Independent printed a letter from Leonard Marcisz, Board President of the Arizona Historical Society.  It challenged a letter I submitted previously that was critical of the AHS.  Unfortunately, the rebuttal provided by the AHS is based on many faulty claims.

First, the AHS budget was not cut in half since 2011. In 2011, the AHS budget included funding for a huge mortgage payments on the Tempe AHS facility. In subsequent years, those funds were buried in the Department of Administration (DOA) budget. The cost to taxpayers had not been reduced, even though the visible part of the AHS budget has been reduced. Many other building related costs are also buried in the ADOA budget. The annual appropriations report only shows a fraction of what the AHS costs taxpayers.

The AHS does have over 20 state owned buildings, as claimed. However, ADOA records show that the buildings are at only 9 different locations. One is a rotting pile of lumber in the Bradshaw Mountains, and another is an old schoolhouse in Strawberry, AZ. The old outhouse behind the school is also counted as one of the buildings.  The AHS website currently features only 7 (formerly 6) museums located in Tucson (4 each), Tempe, Flagstaff, and Yuma. The AHS rebuttal confused “buildings” with “museums”. The ADOA records also show a “building renewal” expense of about $900,000 per year for the $208,000 square feet of state owned property occupied by the AHS. That, along with other building maintenance and operating costs, is another hidden cost in the sense that is not shown in AHS appropriations. It is buried the ADOA budget.

The claim that it is the unique mission of the AHS to preserve the people’s history while the State Library preserves government history is also not correct.  The State Library collections include private manuscripts. There is redundancy, with duplicate management structures, at taxpayer’s expense.

For FY2014, Legislature records show that the AHS reported a total of only 22,747 visitors for all of it history museums.  What is the AHS claim of 70,000 museum visitors based on?  Does it include people attending weddings and other private parties? The claim of efficiency being reflected by a cost of 46 cents per resident is meaningless since few residents are served by the AHS. A more meaningful measure is the cost per user, that that is hundreds of dollars. The limited services provided by the AHS do not justify the enormous visible and hidden costs.

The AHS says that the assertion of arrogance was “unsupported”, even though reports demonstrating it were cited.  What should we call a state agency that refuses to comply with statutes and policies that apply to it? The blog Mineral Museum Madness has been reporting further evidence of AHS arrogance (or whatever) for the past 5 years.

Finally, President Marcisz proposes a one on one meeting to discuss these issues.  We can do that, but it is unlikely to resolve anything. Legislative action is probably required to curb the wasteful culture of the AHS. The AHS was initially established as a social club, and, in many ways, that is what is today. Unfortunately, it is costing taxpayers many millions of dollars that could be put to much better use.