Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fading into history?

Does the Arizona Historical Society have a future? Attendance at its history museums suggests that it may not. The trend in the plot below clearly shows continued loss of public support. The only significant increase is the one time increase during the centennial year, when 10,000 people apparently came to look at quilt displays.

Particularly absurd is the just over 3,000 annual attendees at the huge 80,000 square foot museum in Tempe. That museum has a $1.3 million annual mortgage payment, and ten state paid employees. What is the justification for keeping it open?

Taxpayers provide the AHS with over $3 million in cash every year. The hidden costs of maintaining the many state owned facilities are obviously greater than that. Therefore, the state subsidy is obviously hundreds of dollars per museum visitor and rising

How long will this be allowed to continue?

Total attendance at six AHS history museums by fiscal year.

Note 1: The attendance numbers are from the Arizona state budget where they are show as a performance measure. They do not include attendance for a State Park facility managed by the AHS or for attendance at the mineral museum in FY2011.

Note 2:  The attendance at the mineral museum was over 50,000 per year.  The AHS closed it in less than a year of gaining control of it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lobbyists vs kids

The long-running controversy over the mineral collection and the mineral museum building in Phoenix appears to be morphing into a conflict between lobbyists and kids. Lobbyists want the building for a "reception center", which some read as a restaurant and lounge. Kids, teachers, parents, and grandparents want to restore the mineral museum and it K-12 earth science education programs.

Based on the veto of SB1200, it does not appear to be a fair fight.  Elected officials have term limits in Arizona, but lobbyists don't. Therefore, lobbyists can exert too much influence over state government. A recent media release addressed this ugly problem. The links below are for publications which were the first to publish this latest release.

Which interest will prevail for use of these state resources?

K-12 education or the comfort and amusement of lobbyists?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Marley Mess

As reported by prior posts, the “Friends of the Arizona Historical Society” claimed that the mineral museum has been relocated to Tempe. Anyone who has exposed themselves to the painful experience of viewing the few minerals in the pathetic display there knows the claim is ludicrous.

As reported by the Jan 1, 2011 blog post (Museum that couldn’t think straight) the Marley has had serious problems since five years before the day it opened. Perhaps that is why the AHS is so desperately trying to re-brand it as the History Museum at Papago Park.  However, a stink weed by any other name is still a stink weed. The pitiful attendance records say it all.

In addition to the articles by Terry Greene Sterling (referenced in the 1/1/11 post) the following bit of history damns the Marley as a monument to incompetence.  The Marley (or whatever it is called) is not a fitting venue for the state mineral collection.


Society builds lies on lies
by Tucson Citizen on Jun 04, 1998, under Perspective

After reading Richard Oldham’s May 11 guest column, ”Column wronged Historical Society staff, volunteers” I reread the original April 28 column by Mark Sawyer. Nowhere does Sawyer mention either the staff or volunteers at the Arizona Historical Society, only its leadership.

Oldham’s title, like the rest of his writing, was the sort of creative misdirection for which the Historical Society has become known. How sad that it is in charge of writing our state’s history.
It is pointless to debunk Oldham’s lies. The Governor’s Office, the Auditor General, many expert consultants, and all of Arizona’s major newspapers – the Star, Citizen and Republic – have repeatedly recognized the Society’s mismanagement and called for reform. Only the Historical Society’s self-appointed leadership pretends the Society is well-run, and it has already been caught in too many lies to be believed.

If anyone wonders whether the Arizona Historical Society is preserving our history honestly, consider this: the Arizona Historical Society’s Phoenix museum is named in honor of Kemper Marley. According to Arizona Attorney General Grant Wood, former Governor Bruce Babbitt, the Phoenix Police Department, the FBI, and over 100 newspaper reporters who conducted the largest press investigation ever, Kemper Marley ordered the car bomb killing of Phoenix reporter Don Bolles. John Adamson, who confessed to planting the bomb, explained that Bolles was part of a three-victim murder contract Marley arranged. Payments were even traced from Marley to Adamson. But when schoolchildren visit the Arizona Historical Society, Marley is portrayed as a heroic philanthropist.

Is this the sort of ”truth” about history the Arizona Historical Society preserves? Frankly, it’s hard to imagine any state historical society doing worse. But the Arizona Historical Society does do worse. Shortly after naming the museum for Don Bolles killer, the Society went to Bolles’ widow and family and asked them to donate the wreckage of Bolles’ exploded car to the museum. They left out the fact that the museum was named for Bolles’ killer. The family at first agreed, but withdrew the donation in public outrage when they learned the truth. Is Oldham proud of this?

When lies built upon lies bring heartbreak to the family of a man killed for telling the truth, how can anyone defend it? Have the people who lead such a historical society no sense of conscience? Have they no shame?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

An open letter to the members of the Arizona Historical Society

Public statements made by AHS representatives are diminishing the reputation of your Society.  In public hearings, AHS representatives have complained that the AHS has “taken grief” from mineral museum supporters, and referred to them as “wild Indians”.  They have even made disparaging remarks about the Legislature. AHS representatives have also made false public statements about the mineral museum closure.

Arizona Revised Statute 41.827* requires the AHS to continue operating the mineral museum in a portion of the existing building in Phoenix, and in particular to maintain the “outdoor equipment” that was a key part of the popular museum. The fact that the centennial museum (AKA experience museum) project failed did not justify closing the mineral museum. The AHS has been funded to operate the mineral museum every year since, and has a clear statutory responsibility to do so.  Instead, the AHS fired the staff and changed the locks while children were still scheduled to arrive for school field trips in the spring of 2011.

All mineral museum supporters are trying to do is restore a top rated and extremely popular science museum that served over 40,000 children per year (as well as over 10,000 adults). AHS lobbyists and management have been obstructing every effort to do this, and have now assured that at least 200,000 children will have been or will be deprived of a unique, lifetime learning experience. It is the children that are “taking grief”, not the AHS.

Be aware that Auditor General reviews of the AHS have, over a period of 20 years, never been satisfactory. Also be aware that attendance at your museums is fading rapidly. Your Tempe museum in particular is in serious trouble. It has ten state employees and a $1.3 million dollar annual mortgage payment, but only attracted a mere 3375 visitors last year. How long will taxpayers continue funding it as attendance falls? Particularly in Phoenix, the AHS public image is not good. Continued whining about an imagined wrong related to the mineral museum mess will only make it worse.

Please ask AHS management to allow people capable of doing so to restore the mineral museum for the children. Focus on using the generous resources that state taxpayers still provide you to improve your history museums.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Comment by AZGS

The AZGS posted a comment on the recent Arizona Republic article linked to the May 24 post.

The AZGS homepage is at

Friday, May 29, 2015

Veto extends unlawfull activity

The text below was distributed to 750 media contacts across the state. The Sonora News (  and the Sierra Vista Herald
( ) were among the first to publish it.
Although he may not be aware of it, when Gov. Ducey vetoed Senate Bill 1200 he enabled the Arizona Historical Society to continue defying Arizona law. When the AHS was given control of the state mineral museum to prepare for the centennial celebration, Arizona Revised Statutes Title 41.827 established a clear responsibility to continue operating the mineral museum and education programs in a portion of the building. The subsequent failure of their centennial project did not relieve them of the responsibility to continue operating the mineral museum. However, in knowing defiance of the statute, they locked the doors in April of 2011 as students were still arriving for school field trips. Then, even though they were funded to operate the museum every year since, they emptied the building, scattering it contents across the state.
In an attempt the correct the situation, the Legislature passed SB1200 (mineral museum restoration) with a nearly unanimous vote. All mineral museum assets would have been transferred to the Arizona Geological Survey, a state agency willing and able to restore and operate the minerals museum. Unfortunately, the Governor’s veto enables the AHS to continue its unethical and illegal pursuits. Their lobbyists from R&R Partners of Las Vegas are promoting conversion of the building into a reception and event center for politicians and lobbyists. The AHS, a state agency, is actually supporting the interests of lobbyists over the interests of children.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Minority rule?

Prior posts reported on how the mineral museum restoration bill (SB1200) got nearly unanimous support in both House and Senate. Yesterday,. the Arizona Republic reported on the communications received by the Governors office:

For SB1200:          1,376
Against: SB1200:         5


So, why did the Governor veto the bill?

As quoted in the above linked Republic article, the AHS claims that they did not oppose the bill.

If, so, who did?

As described in the 5/2/15 blog post, the "Friends of the Arizona Historical Society" requested that messages be sent to the Governor asking that SB1200 be vetoed.

Who are the "Friends of the Arizona Historical Society"?

Why did these 5 individuals get their way over the will of the people?