Sunday, July 3, 2011

Arizona Historical Society attempting to hide failure?

The AHS is a state agency and depends on taxpayer support for most of its budget. Each year, the Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee includes perfromance measures in its budget summary. In the past, that has included museum attendance and customer satisfaction ratings.

The chart below shows statewide AHS museum attendance based on data contained in the FY 2010 and FY 2011 JLBC budget summaries. Clearly, there is a problem.  Even though the AHS continues to be heavily subsidized,  attendance at AHS museums is in serious decline. For FY2010, their subsidy therefore reached a whopping $123 per museum visitor. Anyone who reviews the history, layout, and condition of the Marley Center Museum in Papago Park can easily understand why.  The AHS does not appear to be seriously interested in its mission.  Rather, it is focused on attracting speical events, such as weddings, to supplement its budget.

What is the AHS response to declining museum attendance?  Refocus on its mission? Repair the many broken interactive displays in the Marley and reopen the library? Add new, changing  displays about Arizona history?


The AHS appears to be fudging the numbers provided to the JLBC for the performance review. The review section of the FY2011 JLBC budget summary no longer reports museum attendance. Instead, it reports 100,000 “museum visitors and researchers” for FY2010.  It shows 145,000 expected for FY 2011 and 200,000 for FY2012.

Researchers. Who are these people and what are they doing?  How can there be a growing number of researchers in a closed library?
How long does the AHS really think it can hide steadily declining museum attendance by lumping the numbers with undocumented “researchers”?


  1. Their attendance should pop up this year as they will add the AMMM visitors (2010-2011), but then take a nose dive during the construction period. AMMM is the only successful museum on their dockets. The legislature will only hear the good numbers. No way can they double their attendance in 2 short years, especially with the AMMM being closed.....probably for a good 4-5 years.

  2. If they charge any kind of admissions charge nobody will come in. Just like most of their current museums.
    Hell will freeze over the day Bill Ponder tells the truth about the attendance.