Friday, February 24, 2012


Guest post by an anonymous contributor:

The Arizona centennial is now history and there is no centennial museum celebrating Arizona history. Why did the grand plan for the $15 million “centerpiece” of the centennial celebration” fail?

Perhaps because the plan was not really so grand?

In fact, it was not even any good.

The flaws become obvious when the loosely defined plan is compared to recommended practice for establishing a new museum.  In the following paragraphs, ten key points for creating a new museum are compared to what actually happened.  The numbered recommendations are in normal type, and actual centennial museum planning is summarized in bold italics.

Best 10 Practices for Creating a New Museum *

  What Gov. Brewer, AHS, and Centennial 12 Foundation Did!

Announced a 5C Arizona Centennial Museum honoring the 5 C’s (one line description of new museums theme), announced who the sole-source designer (Gallagher) would be and chose the sole-source museum manager (AHS) who is also on the Centennial Foundation 2012 Board. 
Done Deal!!!

Planned museum in secret, later announced it as a “Birthday Present” others would have to pay for, and instantly gagged the mining and mineral museum (MMM) staff. 


Omitted this step.  They could have at least gone to the AHS’s Marley Museum to figure out why a high-tech museum might fail and how expensive it is to maintain one.

No need to do this.  The clique simply planned to hi-jack an existing building-the Polly Rosenbaum building dedicated to and containing the very successful Mining and Mineral Museum.  Oops—they forgot to consider the bad press and anger this would cause.


The initial cost estimate used to support the centennial museum bill was on a half-page of paper and was hopelessly incomplete. After the bill became law, the cost ballooned to over $15 million. Since there is still no transparency, the soundness of that estimate is unknown. That’s also without any consideration for maintenance costs and who will agree to pay for them for years and years.


The project was forever changing and never described to the public.  After announcing her “birthday gift”, Gov. Brewer, one year later, said we would hear more from her soon.  It never happened.  Meanwhile the theme somehow morphed from the 5Cs to the Arizona “experience” which was never clearly explained. AHS and the Centennial Foundation made some vague attempts that have proven to be glowing generalizations with no money or concrete plans behind them. 


The Centennial Foundation is a non-profit with community leaders, but they failed to promote the new museum or answer opposition.  They made a small number of “public” presentations only to small, select groups such as town councils. They did, however, allow the Governor and AHS to use their 501 (c) 3 status as a way to allow for sole-source contracts rather than open bidding.  The Centennial Commission and the AHS’s Board of Directors apparently said nothing.


No need for this step—they already chose the designer first!  There was plenty of room (in the mineral museum building) for a pre-view but that never happened—everyone was just supposed to accept whatever the Governor, the AHS, and the Foundation wanted for their expensive “signature” project.


Fundraising failed due to a “jam it down your throat” attitude, using pressure from the Gov.’s office and the guise of a “birthday gift” others had to pay for. The “signature” project supplanted other worthy efforts for our Centennial and destroyed the historic, well-respected, popular, and almost self-supporting MMM.


The vision was never adequately shared, and for some it was a true nightmare.  The public still does not know what the Experience Museum is.  Without the funds, the vision is diminished.  The reality now being shared is that Arizona lost a valuable and historic museum and had an empty building for our Centennial celebration.


The secrecy surrounding centennial museum planning and the statute to authorize it was inappropriate. It produced angry community opposition and led to a legislative compromise that had the MMM “housed” in the building, sharing it with the Centennial Museum. Then, this legislative action was completely ignored. The centennial museum project proceeded in blatant violation of the new state statutes.

Instead, a strategy of silencing the opposition failed.  The MMM was abruptly closed, with the staff laid off (fired) and the doors locked to the 25,000 school students plus 30,000+ visitors each year.  Untruthful information about low MMM attendance and serious budget concerns didn’t stand up to the fact that the MMM was self-supporting but for the use of the historic state owned building.

Freeport reportedly began a feasibility study very late in 2011 after it became clear there would be no centennial museum for Arizona’s centennial. Such studies are normally done at the beginning of a project.  At this point, a failure analysis would be more appropriate.

After several focus changes and near total failure to raise anywhere near the money estimated (guessed) for the centennial / experience museum, the project is in very serious trouble.  Credibility was further damaged because the public was given ever changing amounts that were greatly inflated as fundraising reports for the new museum.  At one point supporters claimed they had raised one third of the money. Then, the news media reported only 2 or 3 million had  been raised. The latest figure (ABC 15 news report) is even lower than before— $250,000 raised for a guestimated need of #$15.75 M.   


Recipe for Success: Items (normal type) 1 through 10.

Recipe for Failure: Actions of Governor Brewer, AHS, and the Centennial 2012 Foundation from mid-2009 through the centennial.

 * Museum Planning

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Half million dollar state budget for nonexistent museum?

The FY 2013 state budget includes some completely inexcusable pork.  The executive Budget (page 106) includes $626,900 for the AHS to operate the Arizona Centennial Museum. Senate Bill 1543 (Section 46) includes $441,400, as does House Bill 2852. House and senate bills both identify the nonexistent museum as the Arizona Experience Museum, even though the change from centennial museum to experience museum was never authorized by the legislature.

Does the Arizona legislature think they are being financially responsible by only reducing, rather than eliminating, the budget for a museum that does not even exist?

The Arizona centennial is now history. There was not and will not be a centennial museum.  When will the Arizona Legislature catch on?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Is the Arizona Centennial Museum obsolete?

As described in prior posts, the Arizona Centennial Museum morphed into the Arizona Experience Museum. The terms are now synonyms for an embarrassing centennial  failure. The nameless buiding at 1502 West Washington Street (Centennial Way) is now an empty shell.

Now,  states the following:

To commemorate the once-in-a-lifetime event of Arizona’s hundredth birthday, the Governor and Arizona Historical Society envisioned a museum that would capture the state’s history, celebrate its people, and embrace its future. Working with world-renowned museum designers, Gallagher and Associates, the AHS began to seek ideas from across Arizona to create plans for a true journey of discovery. The museum would feature of immersive, multimedia, and interactive exhibits to introduce visitors to meet some of the people who nurtured the state through its early years and others who are innovating its tomorrows. Showcases would include the natural resources that shaped its history and are transforming its present day, highlighting encounter the ingenuity that tamed the wild frontier and is envisioning Arizona’s next frontiers. Visitors would hear from Arizonans in their own words-- the voice of all of the diverse cultural and ethnic groups that call this state home. The Virtual Arizona Experience was initially intended to serve as the web site for the museum, but it quickly developed an identity of its own, adding content and applications that are better suited to being handled online, and creating a rich, dynamic supplement to the museum experience.
Question:  Why build a $15 million dollar museum filled with interactive displays featuring material that can be better presented on the internet?

Analogy: If a new movie appeared on the internet before it was released in theaters, who would go to the theater to see it?  If the internet version had added "content and applications", could the theater even give tickets away?

Monday, February 13, 2012

ABC 15 investigates centennial museum mess

Investigative reporter David Biscobing covered the premature and misguided closure of the historic and top rated Arizona Mineral and Mining Museum. Text and video are available at:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Centennial boondoggle exposed!

Investigative reporters at ABC 15 TV are putting the finishing touches on a big story about the big boondoggle that destroyed the top rated mineral museum.  For a preview, see:

Elected leaders insult donors and volunteers

Arizona's elected state leaders chose to celebrate the centennial by insulting the many donors and volunteers that made the top rated and historic Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum possible. The elected leader’s failed "centerpiece of the centennial celebration" displaced the mineral museum and its popular K-12 earth science education program. The doors were literally locked in the faces of children arriving on school buses. Donors and volunteers were shocked by this callous disregard for history and education.

The January 30th post (A plea to save Arizona history) told the story of one family that donated a major historical artifact. The story of another such family follows:
In 1958 my Father Lawrence (Shorty) Tozier decided to move to Sedona, Arizona.  He had lived most of his life in Southern California.  My grandfather had made the trip from Bangor,  Maine to Long Beach, California by Model T Ford in 1917-18.  By the 1950s my Dad had sold his orange groves and decided California was getting over- crowded.  He opened a Laundromat in Sedona but found he did not have much interest in that type of business.

By 1961 he had moved the family to Phoenix.  He had been looking for land to buy since leaving Sedona and he found about 300 acres north of Cave Creek/Carefree within the Total National Forest.  My dad was familiar with this type of property.  He had been an U.S. Forest Ranger in the Angeles National Forest and the San Juancintos during the 1930s.  After purchasing the land he discovered that a mine was on the property.  It was known as the Red Rover Mine.

The Red Rover Mine  was established around 1882 and was the most successful mining operation in the Cave Creek Mining District.  Copper carbonates that contained as much as 2000 oz. of silver per ton were found at the surface of the deposit.   Major production at the mine occurred from 1882 to 1917 during which $200,000 in copper and silver was recovered.  But between 1917 and 1953, it had been operated intermittently.

My Dad found a partner who knew mining and tried to open up the mine.  A first they did not have enough money to do under-ground mining.   They screened the tailings for high-grade ore and sent it to the Inspiration Smelter at Miami/Globe.  But the transportation costs ate up most of the returns from the smelter.   By the late 1960s they had found the money to do some under-ground mining.  A new drift/tunnel was dug into the hill under an old building which had been the Cooks Shack.   In the past Mining Engineers had seen signs that high-grade ore existed there.

As the drift was dug, water and air was piped in and track was put down for the ore car and mucker.   My husband Frank was not working in construction at the time so he and my brother Ted worked as miners.  They would drill and shoot the rock face and then move the waste outside with the mucker and ore car.  Frank always moved carefully when the mucker was running.  The heavy steel shovel would jerk up and back to load the ore car.  It could have easily broken an arm or someone’s head if one got in the way. 

Unfortunately,  the money was gone before any ore was found.  Under-ground mining is expensive and finding a small vein of ore in the ground is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  As the years passed there was less interest in mining and more interest in building homes.  My parents lived at the Red Rover some years and in Cave Creek during other years.  By 1990 my parents were getting too old to live out by themselves.

At that time Charlie Connell visited the mine.  He was building the stamp mill display at the new Mining and Mineral Museum and was looking for some large timbers to complete the head frame.   At that time my parents decided to donate the two muckers and ore cars to the Museum.   Charlie restored the Muckers and Ore Cars and placed the best looking one in front of the Museum where it still stands today.   And for many years there was a picture of it in the Phoenix Yellow Pages phone book.
Today there is a renewed interest in mining.  The most popular show on TV right now is “Gold Rush”.  It is about placer gold mining in Alaska.   This renewed interest means we need to get more stories published about the history of Arizona Mines.  

By Cynthia Buckner, 2/6/2012 

The following pictures show  family members playing and working at the mine in 1968 and 1970. The last picture shows one of the muckers that was donated to the mineral museum.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mining deleted from Arizona story

A letter in the Febuary 9th Arizona Republic reads in part:

In reading the schedule of "Storytellers" for the Arizona Best Fest this weekend, I didn't see any mention of anyone telling a story about mining in Arizona ("A stage of storytellers," Tuesday).

There were miners here, building this state, long before there were rock stars, winemakers, Intel and most of the others who will be telling their stories.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Arizona Centennial celebration letter

Guest Post:

Dear Governor Brewer,

Thank you for your invitation to attend events held near the capitol celebrating Arizona's 100Th birthday.  However, I will have to pass on attending those celebrations because it makes me sad to be in that area.  Just looking at the empty and silent building on the northwest corner of 15Th Avenue and Washington Street breaks my heart.
For the past 20 years I have been an inner city classroom volunteer, and the Arizona Mines and Mineral Museum was a favorite field trip of mine.  A visit to the AMMM, a walk through Westley Bolin Park, and a visit to the Arizona Capitol were more fun for our students than you can even imagine.
We planned that very trip last spring but we were greeted by LOCKED doors at the AMMM.  The building was silent and sad, just like our students when they heard that the AMMM was no more.
I love Arizona and will celebrate her 100Th birthday at my school with  birthday cake and a pinata.
I wish you all the best,
Judy Ambelang
Public school volunteer

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Recommended budget increase for non-existent Arizona Centennial Museum (AKA Arizona Experience Museum)

Pages 106 and 107 of Governor Brewer’s FY 2013 budget show FY 2012 appropriations and FY 2013 recommendations for the Arizona Historical Society.  In FY 2012, the AHS received a separate line item appropriation of $589,700 for a centennial museum even though there is no centennial museum and the mineral museum (prior occupant of the building) was closed before the beginning of FY 2012.

Incredibly, the executive budget recommends an increase in the centennial museum separate line item appropriation for FY 2013. The recommended appropriation is $626,900.

Hint to the Arizona Legislature:

Take a look at the building with no name at 1502 West Washington Street (AKA Centennial Way).
Note the locked doors and closed signs.
Peek through the windows and see the emptiness inside.

The Executive Budget FY 2013

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bad Press for Arizona Centennial Museum

The chickens are finally coming home to roost. The now notorious 5C Arizona Centennial Museum (AKA Arizona Experience Museum) is finally receiving recognition for what it is: a miserable failure that seriously damaged Arizona’s centennial celebration.

A recent front page article in the Arizona Republic included the following paragraphs:

Brewer added a complication when she announced plans to convert the Mining and Mineral Museum into a centennial museum. That led to the mining museum's abrupt closure last year, angering volunteers and staffers.

"It's been a challenge to have the negativity surrounding it," said Churchard, the only commission staffer on the state payroll.

Meanwhile, conversion of the building at 15th Avenue and Washington Street into the Arizona Experience Museum is on hold. So far, there's $950,000 pledged toward the $12.75 million effort.

A subsequent letter to the editor commenting on the article and the centennial fiasco included the following:

The planning of our state's 100th birthday party has been fraught with bickering and haphazard fundraising.

Our Mining and Mineral Museum was abruptly closed last year to make way for Brewer's "centennial museum," where it remains shuttered for lack of funding.

Arizona centennial events reined in by funding woes, by  Mary Jo Pitzl - Jan. 30, 2012 11:49 PM
The Republic |

Arizona deserves better than this party, letter to the editor by Bob Ellis, Arizona Republic, Feb. 3, 2012 12:00 AM