Saturday, January 1, 2011


This true horror story is much scarier than “The Museum after Dark”.  In this story, a ravenous monster eats tax dollars by the millions.  The story is not fiction, it is happening now in Arizona.  The new monster is the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum.

The monster in the original Arizona museum horror story was the Marley Center Museum, also know as the Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park (Tempe, AZ).  According to news reporter Terry Sterling, it devoured ten million dollars as it hatched. However, the museum did not open until five years after the building was completed.  Even then, only half the displays were complete and the AHS had failed to raise the funding required to finish them. Sterling further claimed the high dollar displays incorporated simplistic explanations, inconsistent labeling, and factual errors.

Reviewing Sterling's article shows that the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum story and the Marly Center Museum story appear to share a common plot:
  • An Arizona history museum is designed by an east coast firm unfamiliar with Arizona
  • Simplistic display themes are implemented with high tech, high cost hardware
  • The taxpayers provide and maintain the building
  • The AHS is only required to raise funds for the exhibits
  • The AHS fails to raise sufficient funds
    Apparently high school history teachers are correct.  History does repeat itself.

    The future will likely show the two museums sharing one other feature: very low attendance.   Nationwide, there is little interest in history museums. According to “2009 Museum Financial Information” by the American Association of Museums (as cited in a Nov. 10, 2010 CAMA presentation by Peter Welch), a history museum is the least popular type of museum. Median annual attendance is only 10,000 visitors, about 3% the median annual attendance at science and technology museums.

    Pertinent questions:

    Was the Marley center Museum ever completed?

    What is the annual attendance at the Marley Center Museum?

    Why would the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum (another history museum) attract more visitors than the Marley Center Museum?

    Is there any reason whatever to expect the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum will be self supporting, as the Governor claims?

    Note : According to Arizona JLBC budget reports, the Marley Center Museum still devours over 2 million tax dollars per year.  The AHS budget was recently increased by over 2 million tax dollars per year as the centennial museum project was assigned to the AHS.  In Hollywood horror films, the first monster is at least killed before the second appears.  In Arizona, real life is scarier than fiction (at least for taxpayers).

    Online References:

    The Museum That Couldn’t Think Straight
    by Terry Greene Sterling
    Phoenix New Times
    Thursday, May 23, 1996

    The Way It Wasn’t
    by Terry Greene Sterling
    Phoenix New Times
    Thursday, May 23, 1996


    1. Have the taxpayers even finished paying for the building? The museum has so little attendance they even closed the gift shop.
      And how many people come hrough the museum. Not just schoolkids on tours but real visitors who drive to Papago Park to see the museum..

    2. Maybe Marley Center failed because Governor Brewer was not there to provide it with an inspirational theme (like 5Cs).

    3. According to the Rio Nuevo Audit the AHS spent 1.4 million dollars on museum designs for a building that will never be built. There they go again. Out of state contractors too.

    4. I just read the article from reporter Sterling from '96. He needs to contact the reporter from the Arizona Daily Star who has exposed the messs with the Rio Nuevo Project.
      Looks like it was a mess in 1996 and is a mess now. How could the AHS do any kind of decent exhibit with another out of state contractor and another boring exhibit concept. Loosers then and now. Doesnt their board of directors have a clue about what the hell is going on.

    5. Terry Greene Sterling has a website:( The public can post comments.