Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thousands of school children have lost out

Guest post by Ted Rushton

Ted Rushton, now retired, is a former reporter, photographer, columnist and editor for newspapers and magazines in Canada, New Mexico and Arizona.

         Thousands of Arizona school children lost out on one of the outstanding education trips of their young lives with the closing of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum during the past weekend
       "Children's voices count too!" according to Mardy Zimmermann, one of the volunteers trying to save the museum.  It was ordered closed on the weekend when no school groups were present, in the hopes of silencing any and all children's voices that were defending the museum.

       The sudden closure, a surprise to museum employees who were not told about the decision until Saturday afternoon, was well planned.  On Monday morning, work crews were on the job at 1502 West Washington Street with a hydraulic lift to remove the signs identifying the museum from the front of the building.

       The Mining Museum, less than two blocks from the legislative buildings and the governor's office, displayed mineral specimens and related educational material on the history and current status of Arizona's mineral heritage.  It was widely regarded as one of the finest of its type in the nation.  Closing had been set for June 1, but was advanced by a month without explanation.

       Supporters of the Mining Museum lobbied hard to prevent its closure, including legislation approved last year that was intended to protect and preserve the museum.  The building, dating from the 1920s, was the Shrine Temple until it was turned over to the state in 1988.

       Tentative plans are to replace this earth-science museum with a reception center for politicians and other dignitaries visiting the state capitol; renovations are to include cocktail lounges, bars, an auditorium and large open spaces for legislative and other political functions.

       The building is two blocks east of the Arizona State Capitol Museum, a four-story building from 1899 that housed the original legislature and government offices until the 1960s.  The mining museum, located on the State Fairgrounds until the 1990s, was moved to the West Washington location to consolidate state museums in one region.

The mineral museum is supposedly being replaced by an Arizona Centennial Museum that can not possibly be open for the centennial. The cost is estimated to be in the $15 million range, although fund-raising so far has produced less than $2 million as private donors hesitate to be identified with the closing of an outstanding Arizona feature.  As the state economy improves, and with major funding cuts to Arizona schools, universities, health care programs, state parks and other programs making new money available for more pork projects, funds will be perhaps be "borrowed" to make up for all lack of public support.

       An intense lobbying campaign launched by volunteer supporters of the Museum apparently fell on deaf, dumb and daft ears in the governor's office and elsewhere.  The building had been placed under the administration of the Arizona Historical Society; despite this move, history has been trashed in favor of a party center for Arizona politicians.

 Details about the official reason for closing the building a month early may be obtained from either:
 Governor Jan Brewer, 1700 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona, 85007;
Or from:  Anne Woosley, Director of the Arizona Historical Society, 949 East Second Street, Tucson, Arizona, 85719 - 4898.

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