Friday, December 30, 2011

Arizona’s Botched Centennial Celebration

The Arizona Best Fest events were to be the major centennial celebrations. They were to be held in Prescott in September, Tucson in November, and Phoenix in February.  The Prescott event was held as scheduled, but the Tucson one was not. 

The Arizona Centennial Commission & Foundation spent their funds designing the Arizona Historical Society’s $15 million 5C Arizona Centennial Museum instead. Like their $80 million History Museum at Rio Nuevo in Tucson, it will never be built because the AHS did not raise the funds for construction.

This is strike three for the AHS.  They spend millions designing things they cannot build.  Their resume of failure now includes the Marley Center Museum in Tempe, the History Museum at Rio Nuevo in Tucson, and the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum in Phoenix. The Marley was unique because it was actually built (but shouldn’t have been). The state provided funds for the building, but the AHS then failed to raise the funds for the displays. The state then raised more money for the displays, but the AHS then failed to maintain them. The interactive displays in the Marley are now a pile of junk. 
Why did the Arizona Centennial Commission fund another AHS failure rather than the Centennial Best Fest celebrations? 

Weary of waiting for the state, Tucsonans plan centennial bash
Veronica M. Cruz, Arizona Daily Star
Friday, December 30, 2011 12:00 am

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Historical Society’s War of Words

Guest post by a mineral museum supporter who participated in Senate negotiations over HB 2251

 During the fight over HB 2251 (the bill to authorize using the Polly Rosenbaum building for the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum rather than  for  only the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum), the fate of the mineral museum was the focus of contentious argument before a senate hearing.  The words used by each side show very different intents and make a good third grade AIMS question:

Question:  Which word(s) does not belong in the following group?
                  A.  repurpose
                  B.  transform
                  C.  house
                  D.  fundamentally change

Alternate Question:  Which phrase does not mean the same as the other two?

A.    repurpose and transform
B.     fundamentally change
C.     house and maintain

Correct answer:  C for both questions.

“House” and “maintain” were the words used by the Arizona Legislature in the amended bill which passed.  The Arizona statutes now clearly state that the mineral museum shall be “housed” in the centennial museum. Repurpose, transform, and fundamentally change were words used by the Governor, the AZ Historical Society and the Centennial 2012 Foundation. They wanted to eliminate the mineral museum to make the entire building available for the centennial museum.

Incredibly, having destroyed the mineral museum anyway, the AHS is now arguing that they are “repurposing” the building but that it will still “house” both the mineral museum and the centennial museum in accordance with the statutes.

Except for the outdoor mining equipment, the mineral museum is gone!   The AHS is even attempting to remove the equipment.

The AHS is playing games with words.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Simulated History?

The December 21, 2011 Arizona Republic includes an editorial about the Arizona Historical Society’s plan to remove the restored, historic mining equipment currently on display outside the former Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum. The link to the editorial is:

According to the editorial, the AHS wants to remove the mining equipment because the experience museum to be built inside the building will include a “mining simulator”. So, a historical society wants to remove operating historical artifacts because they will be replaced with a simulator? How misguided is that?

Why spend money on any history museum? Why not just haul all the old junk to the dump and save millions? Generations to come can simply look into a simulator to learn about the past.

Perhaps this is also compatible with the new AHS mission of “imagining the future” rather than preserving the past (see Channel 8 Horizon interview under the video tab). The same simulator can be programmed to go both backwards and forwards in time.

Simple. And stupid.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Back to basics?

The minutes of the January 11, 2011 work study session of the Town of Fountain Hills town council includes the following:

Ms. Churchard discussed the Signature projects and noted that the main projects they are working on include the Arizona Centennial Museum (name might change) and it is currently the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum. She stated that the concept is to transform that Museum into more of the Arizona experience (talk about Arizona in a meaningful way and showcase the State's geography, the five "C's" that formed the State and the history. She stressed the importance of having a place where children can go and learn about bioscience and solar energy in an interactive manner.
The centennial museum authorized by Arizona statutes was to feature the 5Cs.  As the project came under attack because a science museum (mineral museum) was being displaced by a history museum featuring a trivial concept, fluff was added. Bioscience and solar energy are such fluff.

No matter how interactive the displays, children cannot truly comprehend advanced subjects such as bioscience and solar energy (a niche technology) without first learning basic science.  The mineral museum used raw materials from the earth’s crust along with processed materials and manufactured products to teach basic science including physics, chemistry, and geology. Twenty five thousand 3rd and 4th graders per year received such instruction on structured school field trips. Another 20,000 per year received informal basic science education when brought to the museum by parents.

The centennial museum, the experience museum, or whatever it is eventually called, will help firm Arizona’s grip on the embarrassing and shameful last place in science education.

Note: Karen Churchard is the director or of the Arizona Centennial 2012 Foundation which is placing sole source centennial museum contracts for the Arizona Historical Society.   The AHS gained control of and eliminated the mineral museum. The schedule for the centennial museum is unknown.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Perpetuating the myth

An Arizona Centennial Commission representative was recently speaking at a Phoenix woman's group and someone asked why the mineral museum was eliminated to make room for the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum?  He asked how many actually went to the mineral museum and about 7 women raised their hands out of 80.  He then said that was one ever went to the mineral museum. Someone else asked why the name was changed from the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum to the Arizona Experience Museum, and he just ignored the question.

The mineral museum did not have enough visitors?

The mineral museum had over 50,000 visitors per year, including 25,000 students on class field trips that supported the state mandated earth science curriculum. The top rated mineral museum’s attendance, was increasing each year, and was approaching the total statewide attendance for all Arizona Historical Society museums.  AHS attendance, in contrast, is declining year by year. So, why would converting the mineral museum to a history museum increase attendance?

Seven out of eighty Arizona residents have never been to the AHS Marley Center Museum, and it was once a high dollar, highly interactive museum, just like the proposed centennial museum.  Today, it is an electronic ghost town, still eating millions of tax dollars per year but serving no useful purpose. If the Marley did not and does not draw visitors, why would a similarly designed “centennial” or “experience” museum draw visitors, especially when the schedule missed the centennial?

The Governor’s office initially claimed that the building would draw many more visitors if it were transferred to the AHS and converted into a Marley like interactive museum. The myth has been debunked many times. The real motivation for the centennial museum was documented in last month’s AHS board meeting minutes.

It is to “honor” Jan Brewer’s legacy, and to bury the legacies of Polly Rosenbaum and Rose Mofford.

Note:  Except for the use of the state owned building, the mineral museum was self supporting.  The AHS has dozens of state paid employees to serve fewer visitors.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Self-inflicted failure

The Arizona Historical Society’s newest museum, the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum, is a flop.  Like their History Museum at Rio Nuevo, it failed before construction began, but not before a lot of money was paid to high priced out of state designers. The Rio Nuevo museum may have been doomed from the beginning as a part of the larger Rio Nuevo fiasco.  The centennial museum failure however, was self-inflicted.

The Arizona legislature authorized the AHS to prepare a 5C Museum for Arizona’s centennial.  They also mandated that the building continue to house the top rated Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum. The funds that were available for the centennial museum were sufficient to design and construct some excellent displays commemorating the 5Cs that could have augmented the Mineral Museum displays. That action would have complied with the law, and would have supported the centennial celebration.

Instead, the AHS eliminated the Mineral Museum displays, even the brand new ones. Then, just as at Rio Nuevo, the AHS had their sole source contractor design an exhibit for the whole interior of the building that was so expensive it could not be built.  If funds had been available to build it, it would not have complied with the 5C theme mandated by the legislature.

In the case of the Centennial Museum, failure was not easy. It required, extraordinarily bad planning and contempt for instructions from the legislature as documented in the Arizona statutes.

Thanks to the AHS, Arizona will celebrate its centennial with a large empty building on the new (but completely unnecessary) Centennial Way.  Trying to hide the fact that they blew the “centerpiece” of Arizona’s centennial celebration, the AHS has renamed their new non museum the Arizona Experience Museum.

An experience yes, but not a good one.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mineral Museum Debacle

Guest Post:  The following is the text of an email message provided to Phoenix investigative reporters by Bill Hawes of Dewey, Arizona.

Last year, I served as the President of the Mining Foundation of the Southwest, and in this capacity, spent much time in trying to get input into the planned remodel of the museum. All attempts were in vain- it appeared that the Director of the Arizona Historical Society had decided to follow her selection of architect to the letter.
The Mining Foundation felt that the original objectives of the Centennial Museum, which was to feature the "5 C's" could be achieved within the original $5 million budget, and keep the best parts of the mineral museum and its mining displays. These displays were first class in every respect, and were invaluable in teaching the many school children about Arizona's mining industry. However, as stated earlier, it was a wasted effort.
Outside the museum is (or maybe by now should be past tense) a display of Mining equipment, ranging from a large tire and bucket from a shovel from today's open pits, to the historic displays of a headframe, mucking machine, crusher and one of the few operating stamp mills in the country. This is apparently to be removed. The back exterior wall of the museum had a full size scene from an open pit, which cost $28,000 several years ago. I understand this too has to go.
In January of 2011, the Arizona Republic published as one of it's "My Turn" series an article by Charles E. Jones, retired Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, and co chairman of the Arizona Centennial Commission. In it, he said that "existing mining and mineral exhibits will find  home in new Centennial Museum". Apparently, he either lied, or has no control what the Arizona Historical Society does.
As one blatant example: A scale model of an ultra modern open pit mine, along with the related facilities one might find at a large copper mine, such as a concentrator, smelter, SX-EW operations and reclamation efforts were portrayed. The cost to the donor was in the neighborhood of $75,000. The Historical Society said it didn't meet their requirements, so this expensive educational gift had to be relocated- it is now at a technical school.
As with most projects that the museum's architect has been involved with, the estimated cost is now several times over the original. No mention is made of operating costs, should the museum be completed.
Perhaps an unfinished museum will be Governor's Brewers legacy.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Centennial Museum Schedule Kaput

Sep 23, 2011 AHS Board Minutes: Executive Director’s Report

Woosley commented that since the last meeting, much time has been devoted to the Arizona Experience Museum project. Phase one is complete, which includes the architectural schematic and exhibit design. The build-out cost has been provided by WRL Architects, Mortenson Construction, and Gallagher & Associates. She reminded the board that the leadership for this project is in close collaboration with the Governor’s office. In 2010, AHS was legislatively mandated to take responsibility for the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum and create what is now called the Arizona Experience Museum. Woosley commented that the Governor is highly supportive of this project but given the economic environment, required planning, and construction schedule, the project will not be completed in 2012. The Governor has stated that the Arizona Experience Museum will be a legacy of her term in office. Woosley said Kevin Kinsall, the Governor’s Natural Resources Advisor, is now the official policy advisor for AHS. She explained that although the bricks and mortar museum would not open in 2012, the AHS on-line learning center called “Arizona Experience” will be introduced. Staff is working on a variety of ways to provide on-line educational programming. The February 14 Centennial celebration presentation will unveil this project to the public. The content follows the exhibit design of the Arizona Experience Museum and, in addition to being fun and dynamic, will meet educational state standards. There is already new material on the AHS website that includes an historical component. Additional museum exhibition themes, that are expected to be available on-line in February, include mining/geosciences; solar; and water/natural resources. Woosley said staff is working with a team including Kevin Kinsall, educators, and others. A suite of on-line educational programming will continue to be developed throughout 2012. Discussion followed.