Sunday, August 8, 2010

Will the Arizona Centennial Museum erase history?

The photo below (from the Governors website) shows an exterior view of the Governors plan for the Arizona Centennial Museum. This plan was prepared by a sole source contractor, and is apparently the only plan considered. The existing building, at 1502 West Washington, appears exactly as it does now, except for the colored murals on the walls. So exactly what is the Governor applauding?

The only remarkable thing about the picture is what is not in it. The building is currently occupied by the Arizona Mining Mineral Museum and is surrounded by historic mining artifacts. There is a very historic mine head frame from Bisbee, and a baby gauge mining locomotive from Clifton-Morenci. These are shown in the second photo, which is from the mineral museum website.

Other historic artifacts are included in the existing outdoor displays. Among them is a mucker from the Red Rover Mine near Carefree, a huge shovel bucket from Superior, and a stamp mill from the Swallow Mine near Wickenburg. Thousands of volunteer hours have restored the stamp mill and the mucker to operating condition, making them very unique displays.

The Governors contractor told mineral museum volunteers all of these outdoor displays would be “relocated”. There was no elaboration to explain whether a new location would be provided, whether they would be placed in storage somewhere unassembled, or whether they would be scrapped.

The mineral museum is a fundamental part of Arizona’s history. It began long before statehood as an exhibit in the 1884 territorial fair. In 1917 the first permanent display was established on the Arizona State Fairgrounds for that very purpose. As it continued to grow over the years, it was moved to the current location to provide more space. There, it blossomed into one of the States top rated museums as it preserved mining history, presented educational mineral displays, and archived invaluable mineral specimens and documents with historic and scientific value.

According to the only available preliminary plans for the Centennial Museum, virtually the entire existing mineral museum is at risk. The irony of the situation is that the Centennial Museum will be operated by the Arizona Historical Society.

Will the Arizona Historical Society be helping the Governor erase a significant part of Arizona’s unique mining history?

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