Friday, July 30, 2010

Was the Judge mislead about the Arizona Centennial Museum?

Charles Jones, a retired Arizona Supreme court judge, is co-chairman of the Arizona Centennial Commission. As such, he should be familiar with the Centennial Commissions number one signature project, as described in However, his published comments on the Arizona Centennial museum are not consistent with plans presented by others.

The other Centennial Commission co-chairman, Governor Brewer, announced the Centennial Museum on Feb 12, 2010 and issued a press release. Curiously, the Coolidge Examiner published the release, but the Arizona Republic did not. Over a week later, on February 19, the Republic published a brief paragraph about the Centennial Museum in a short editorial entitled “Centennial is an Opportunity to Create, Teach.” The editorial did feature a sketch about the proposed Centennial Museum, but most of the text was about planning and preparing statewide centennial projects during a bleak economy.

Subsequently, the Republic printed three responses expressing concern about the historic and top rated Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum that currently occupies the building. The first (Paul Jeager, February 24) was entitled “Don’t sacrifice state mining museum”. It expressed concern about what will happen to the state mineral collection, which was established over 125 years. The second (Robin Evans) was entitled “Mining, Mineral Museum a treasure” and discussed the loss of essential K-12 educational programs. The third (Dr. Eugene S. Meieran, March 6), expanded further on the educational value of the mineral museum.

Dr. Merian explained how a crystal display he saw in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History over 60 years ago inspired his highly successful scientific career. He explained that the experience was not unique, and that many scientific careers are inspired by a childhood experience such as a museum visit. He went on to explain why displacing the existing world class mineral museum would be a major loss to Arizona and education.

On April 10, the Republic then printed an editorial by Judge Jones addressing concerns about the mineral museum and assuring readers the “the historic pieces of equipment and world class mineral and gem collection will remain prominently displayed” Judge Jones editorial was entitled “Looking back on the states’ 100 years: Existing mining and mineral exhibits will find new home in new Centennial Museum”.

However, Judge Jones assurances are not supported by statements from others. During the Governors February 16 briefing, listeners were told that each of the Cs in the 5C Centennial Museum would be allocated 20% of the floor space (less after other industries are added per subsequent releases). How the existing mineral museum can be fit into less than 20% of the existing floor space has not been explained. Centennial Museum planners do not appear to understand that the mineral museum is similar to an iceberg. Only about 15% of the mineral collection is on display at any one time. Most of the collection is in storage (within the existing building), along with tens of thousands of supporting documents and photos. Without the storage space, the mineral museum cannot function.

Although the Judge said the historic equipment will be preserved, the illustration included in the February 19th editorial clearly shows all of it removed. In fact, at the Governors briefing, listeners were specifically told that it would be “relocated”. Even though an amendment to the bill establishing the Centennial Museum says the historic equipment will be retained, no change to the original plan has appeared.

Finally, even though the bill establishing the Centennial Museum states that the Centennial Museum will “house the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum”, the Arizona Historical Society (manager of the Centennial Museum) continues to say there will be no specific mineral museum area within the Centennial Museum. They specifically say their sole source contractor will mingle items from all of the 5Cs in the Centennial Museum displays. That doesn’t sound like the complete mineral collection will “remain prominently displayed” as promised by the judge.

In fact, the Centennial Museum bill that was rushed through the House and Senate to be signed by the Governor was amended to specifically state that the mineral collection will be split between the Arizona Historical Society and the Arizona department of Mines and Mineral Resources. Exactly which specimens go where is unclear, but it is clear that the entire collection will not remain intact as the judge promised.

Perhaps the two co-chairs of the Arizona Centennial Commission need to have a coordination meeting on the Centennial Museum.


  1. I certainly hope this isn't true. What a huge loss. I've got nothing against history museums, but Arizona has plenty of those, and many are closed due to budget cuts and lack of funding. Considering that mining and minerals payed such a huge role in Arizona's statehood, and that Arizona's biggest tourist draw is a geological feature - shouldn't Arizona have at least one museum devoted to Earth Science?

  2. Unfortunately, it is. You can look up Arizona Senate Bill 2251 on to verify it.