Saturday, December 10, 2011
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.