Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Is the Arizona Historical Society Kafkaesque?

In a May 1996 Phoenix New Times article (referenced in a prior post), reporter Terry Greene Sterling described the Arizona Historical Society as follows:

In its 112 years of existence (the Historical Society is 28 years older than the state itself), the society has spun itself into a Kafkaesque bureaucracy. There are seven divisions. Four are geographical and have their own museums and boards. Then there is the exhibits division. And the publications division. And the administrative division. And there is the Arizona Historical Society Foundation, which raised money for the society.
All of the divisions answer to the Arizona Historical Society board of directors, the only state board with no legislative or gubernatorial appointees. The board appoints its own members.

Note 1: (from Wickipedia.com )
Kafkaesque is an eponym used to describe concepts, situations and ideas which are reminiscent of the literary work of the Austro-Hungarian writer Franz Kafka.  The term implies senseless, disorienting, and menacing complexity. It can describe an intentional distortion of reality by powerful but anonymous bureaucrats.

 “An eponym is the name of a person, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named or thought to be named. One who is referred to as eponymous is someone who gives his or her name to something.”

Note 2: (from ARS 41-821)
 “The society shall have a president, a treasurer, a board of directors, and other officers who shall be elected by the members of the society at times and by methods the bylaws of the society prescribe”.

The statute appears to include no other statement about how the board members are selected or appointed.  Apparently reporter Sterling was correct. The AHS reports to no one.  It is funded by the state, but not managed by the state. How unique.


  1. The director works at the behest of the board of directors. They can fire that person if needed. When they figure out what kind of trouble the director has caused them with the Mineral Museum/Centennial Museum mess I would hope that they would. The director already has the agency deep in manure with the Rio Nuevo problems. The agency spent 1,400,000 dollars for designs of a museum that will never be built. out of stste exhibit designer too. All while cutting staff and closing museums. And while pulling the State Parks chesnuts out of the fire by taking over one of their museums.

  2. Look at the turnover of the staff and espicially the number of directors they have had. Many of the directors have been fired. The board of directors hires the agency director. The current director used to be a board member. Talk about "keeping it in the family!"
    The number of members of the AHS who pay dues is very small for a state of 6 million people. Guess nobody cares about the AHS. And nobody walks into the museum. Hope you are able to publish what the true attendance is for all of their museums. The future Centennial Museum will probably have just as few. Are they going to charge admission for this grand boring museum?? If the do dont expect very many people to walk in. Gotta love those exciting exhibits on cattle, fruit and climate!!!! LOL
    Will there be an admission charge?????????

  3. Perhaps the 1.4 million dollar expenditure explains what happened to some of the state money the legislature thinks is being used to pay employees.

  4. No, it was TIFF money for Rio Nuevo. But its still considered tax money. Tucsom wasted $230,000,000 and got almost nothing. The AHS had its hand in the cookie jar too.