Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A historical society afraid of history?

The January 29th post addressed this question: Is the Arizona Historical Society out of control?

If it is only ‘out of control’, it may in fact have improved over the past decade.  In a May 9, 2000 article, Dan Huff (see reference) quoted a former AHS director as saying that the AHS board was "completely out of control."

Huff went on to write:
--- critics, including Jácome and other Tucsonans, as well as other society members from outside the Phoenix area, are complaining bitterly that the current AHS board-selection system has given rise to hermetically sealed, self-perpetuating leadership -- a decidedly undemocratic mode of government for a state-funded agency.
This "oligarchy," critics charge, is controlled by Phoenix-area residents, many of whom have a very limited vision of what constitutes Arizona history, leaning mostly to Anglo-centric, post-1871 events concurrent with the founding of Phoenix. Very few of the society's ruling clique, the critics claim, have formal training in history and related academic disciplines.

Huff then quotes a quoted (in a memo written by the former director) February 23 (2000?) memo from Joe Hiller, AHS interim executive director and former board member as follows:
SB 1445, which has since failed to make it out of committee -- was introduced this year to restructure the society with a seven-member, governor-appointed commission, replacing the current nominating process and member-elected AHS board.
Although Hiller admits the society "certainly could benefit from examining its governance and organizational model from time to time," he said the proposed legislation "is not in the interests of the society, which is a volunteer organization. There are literally thousands of people who contributed in various ways, and we really feel that creating a governor-appointed commission puts at great risk disenfranchising the membership." 

Disenfranchised members due to a governor appointed commission?

That would be so sad.

What about disenfranchised taxpayers?
As reported in the Jan 3rd post (The recent history---) the senate committee recommended a follow up performance audit in 3 to 5 years. That was in 1998, following that years disastrous performance review by the Auditor General.  Why has there been no follow up review?  If the AHS cleaned house, why did they not insist on a follow up review to clear their name rather than letting the follow up review slide?

Why did the Governors office not review the AHS history before giving it a major new responsibility (5C Arizona Centennial Museum) and additional funding ?

This blogger recently received a complaint about digging up dirt so far in the past.  Citing the only two Auditor General reviews ever performed was said to be particularly unfair.

A historical society afraid of history?

How curious.


Arizona's Hysterial Society; Tempers Are Flaring Among The State's Hardcore History Buffs.

Note: This post did not misspell the title of Dan Huff’s article.


  1. If I was the current director or a board member of the Arizona Historical Society I would be pretty ashamed to read this stuff. I cant see the director even being around after the Centennial. I bet the board will throw her under the bus by then.

  2. The above post sets a nice scenareo (Woosley, Ponder, being tossed out). The problem is that would mean that the board cares...which they do not. The state will cut funding before the board does anything positive to advance the AHS in a positive manner.

  3. May 2015 update: The AHS had 10 years to prepare for the next review. It was not any better. The AHS wants state funds, but is not willing to play buy the rules for state funded agencies.