Saturday, June 25, 2011

Arizona Centennial Museum controversy continues

An article in the July issue of Phoenix Magazine summarizes the continuing controversy over the Arizona Centennial Museum. By itself, the centennial museum (AKA the Arizona Experience) could be just another government boondoggle.  However, it is displacing the historic, top rated, and self supporting Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum and its highly respected K-12 science education programs.  Therefore, there is unending controversy.

The article covers the distress of K-12 teachers and students, the dissension among historians, and the insult to the late state Representative Polly Rosenbaum, a Democrat from Gila County. It describes the failed centennial museum fund drive, the public protests, and the ugly Saturday night massacre and lockout that closed the mineral museum. It also summarizes actions planned by mineral museum supporters in an ongoing fight with no end in sight.

The fuzzy and ever changing theme of the centennial museum is also explained by quote:

“The Arizona Experience Museum is truly going to encapsulate what is uniquely Arizona – its pioneering spirit and its cultural and natural landscapes – what it has been and what it can be,” says Anne Woosley, executive director of the Arizona Historical Society, charged with creating the project.

A further quote makes an outrageous assertion:
Bill Ponder, the historical society’s chief administrative officer, says the now defunct museum served a great purpose. “But I think it could be much, much better even if we are displaying less of the collection,” he says. “People in the museum business will tell you that. For too long it was the same; it was very static. It never changed.”

First, the claim is completely untrue. The mineral museum featured many new displays, and they were developed with community support and private funds, a concept that appears to elude the heavily tax dollar subsidized AHS.

Second, the AHS Marley Center Museum in Papago Park appears to be about as static as a museum can be. The high dollar and apparently unchanging interactive displays from over a decade ago lie is a state of disrepair.

Third, how much will the centennial museum change once built?  How often will the AHS be able to change the custom designed and interactive $10,000,000 museum displays? Will they even be able to maintain them as is?

Delores Tropiano
Arizona Experience Museum
Phoenix Magazine
July, 2011, Page 42


  1. I thought the static , boring exhibits Ponder was talking about were at the AHS Papago Park Museum?? And them wothout the Research Library even open and dismal attendance? What arrogamce.
    So Mr. Ponder what experience do you have. Oh we know you have inhabited the second floor at AHS and where ever you are now. Ever design an exhibit or give a tour. Ever even meet a visitor? You do know where the main lobby is ...right? Thats the place you walk through on the way to lunch.

  2. I got a kick out of Ponder's
    statement. How in the world would he know if the museum's displays were static? Dr. Woosley never stepped foot into the museum until Dec of 2009 just before the Governor gave her speech on repurposing the museum. Ponder finally visited the museum after the Governor's speech. In the last 2 to 3 years several new displays were added and the fossil exhibit was completely upgraded and doubled in size.

    You were 100% right in one of your statements. If they ever get this museum built they will never change any of their displays for a dozen years, if ever.

  3. Why would they change the exhibits? Because after they open them up they will charge far too much money and the public will stay away. Just like their own museums who now hae virtually nobody come in. How many a year at the AHS in Tucson Bill? Come on tell us. How many at the Papago Park location? And all of the others? He wont say because he wants to keep his job. Maybe one of the Board of Directors will ask?
    Why would anyone give 15 million dollars for nobody to walk in.