Saturday, June 21, 2014

Arizona Museum Mismanagement

The Arizona Historical Society continues to operate six history museums and manages one historic mansion for the State Park Service.  The history museums are not successful, top rated museums like the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum that the AHS closed and destroyed. According to a recent performance review conducted Office of the Auditor General, the attendance at AHS facilities was as follows in 2012:

Pioneer Museum, Flagstaff ………. 12, 487
Papago Museum, Tempe .................. 6, 867
Sanguinetti House, Yuma.................. 4, 882
AZ History Museum, Tucson ...........11, 486
Ft. Lowell Museum, Tucson ………. 2, 376
Downtown Museum, Tucson ……….1, 243

Total history museum attendance ….39, 341

The performance report includes one other facility:

Riordion Mansion, Flagstaff ...........  24,732

The AHS currently manages the Riordan Mansion, a State Historic Park, for the Arizona State Parks, with support from Northern Arizona Pioneers' Historical Society and Riordan Action Network. Located on the highway to the Grand Canyon, this old logging baron’s mansion draws over 60% as many visitors by itself as all of the AHS history museums combined.

In 2010, the AHS was given control of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum in Phoenix.  Comparable attendance figures for the mineral museum are not available for 2012 because the AHS closed it in 2011.  However, the average attendance in 2007, 2008, and 2009 was 47,500. So, the mineral museum attendance was approximately 120% of the total attendance of all six AHS history museums.

Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum …. 47, 500 (prior year average)

Furthermore, the half dozen history museums are heavily subsidized by a portion of the $3 million budget taxpayers provide to the AHS every year. By contract, the mineral museum was operated by volunteers and self-generated income.  It served more visitors at less cost.

Why did the AHS close the most successful of its eight facilities (7 museums and one historic park)?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Feeding off the carcass

Not only did the AHS destroy the mineral museum and its K-12 education programs, they are profiting from doing so. The first reference below shows that they are selling gift shop inventory taken from the mineral museum at the Marley Center Museum in Tempe (AKA History Museum at Papago Park).

The second reference appears to indicate that they obtained a rent reduction on the empty mineral museum, and then transferred $148,300 of the reduction to their Marley Center Museum (they get free rent at Marley Center).

Since the AHS is currently still on baseline budgeting, that might possibly mean that they will be rewarded with an additional $140,300 every following year for destroying the mineral museum.


1. Mining and Minerals – A 25 x 60 foot area where the Play Ball exhibit was displayed will hold this exhibit. Programing will be done around the exhibit adding an academic element to the collection. Part of the inventory of minerals/jewelry was on display at the museum store during the Historical League Open House and almost $500.00 in sales was realized in two hours. The revenue received is tied to the mineral collection.
October 18, 2013

2. The budget includes $410,500 and 3 FTE Positions from
the General Fund in FY 2013 for the Arizona Experience
Museum. These amounts fund the following adjustments:

The budget includes a decrease of $(148,300) from the
General Fund in FY 2013 to redistribute monies for rent
from the Arizona Experience Museum to the Papago Park

Statewide Adjustments
The budget includes a decrease of $(30,900) from the
General Fund in FY 2013 for statewide adjustments
Fiscal Year 2013 Appropriations Report, Page 129, Arizona Historical Society

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Goldwater Institute involved in destruction of mineral museum

The March 1, 20014 post explored the possibility of the whole centennial museum fiasco being the result of a nefarious AHS plan to restore and preserve their big taproot into taxpayers pocketbooks.  The circumstantial evidence reviewed in that post appeared to suggest that is what happened.

However, a Jan 10, 2009 post on the Arizona Geologist’s blog suggests that the Legislature initiated the disaster by following a recommendation provided by the Goldwater Institute. The institute recommended eliminating the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources and transferring  management responsibility of the mineral museum to the AHS to save a half million dollars a year.

The demise of the mineral museum is apparently the eventual result of unintended consequences.  The Goldwater Institute apparently recognized the value of the mineral museum, but did not recognize the inability of the AHS to either produce or manage a top rated Arizona museum.

Exactly how the idea of transferring the existing mineral museum to the AHS morphed into the centennial museum fantasy is still unknown. However, even if the AHS did not initiate a grab for the mineral museum, it still bears the responsibility for its destruction.  As summarized in the June 4, 2014 post and explained in detail in prior posts, the AHS eliminated the mineral museum in defiance of Arizona statutes.

Neither the Legislature nor the Goldwater Institute intended to eliminate the mineral museum. Quite to the contrary, the Legislature specifically instructed the AHS to preserve it

Now, as reported in the April 6, 2014 post, the AHS is continuing to defy the legislature by attempting to convert the empty building into and “event center” and preclude and possibility of restoring the mineral museum and its K-12 earth science education programs.

Proposal calls for eliminating ADMMR, cutting mine inspector budget.
January 10, 2009

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A historical society without a memory?

The following article was distributed to newspapers across Arizona two weeks ago. The first to publish it were the Camp Verde Bugle, The Payson Roundup, and the Glendale Star.

In 2010, the passage of House Bill 2251 gave the Arizona Historical Society control of the historic and top rated Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum. That was done to facilitate their 5C Arizona Centennial Museum project.  However, after a very contentious public hearing, the Allen amendment was also passed to preserve the mineral museum and its very popular K-12 education programs in part of the building.  The amendment further dictated that the historic mining equipment outside the building also be preserved. The AHS had two representatives at the table when the Allen amendment was drafted.

The fundraising effort for the centennial museum failed, as did prior fundraising efforts for the History Museum at Rio Nuevo and the Marley Center Museum.  Then, in mid-2011, the AHS inexplicably closed the mineral museum and, except for the mineral specimens, disposed of the contents of the building. They also asked a contractor to plan the removal of historic and functionally restored mining equipment from around the outside of the building.

In November 2011, Rench Law LLC sent a cease and desist order to the AHS and to the contractor that was planning the removal of the historic mining equipment. The notice cited the statutory responsibility to “maintain the mining and mineral museum” in accordance with Arizona Revised Statute 41-827. In December, 2011, Rench Law received a response from the Assistant Arizona Attorney General stating that the AHS would comply with the statute. Subsequently, the mining equipment was not removed, but the mineral museum never reopened even though the AHS continued to receive the full mineral museum budget of over $400,000 every year.

Now, teamed with the 48 Arizona Women (, the AHS has initiated a new fundraising campaign. Apparently, the AHS has again forgotten about the provisions of ARS 41-827. The current project would convert the former mineral museum building into a “public center for events, receptions, and programming.”  In addition to being redundant to the much larger and newer event center that the AHS already has in Tempe, such a facility would preclude restoration of the mineral museum and any possibility of complying with ARS 41-827.  Details of the architect’s concept for this project have not yet been released, but it seems likely that they would include removal of the historic mining equipment, just as the architect’s plans for the centennial museum did.

So, it appears that the AHS could not remember a state statute specifically tailored for them just over a year before.  Then, when reminded of their legal obligation by the Office of the Attorney General, it again slipped their mind in just over two years.

With a memory that faulty, how can the AHS be relied on to preserve Arizona history?

Dick Zimmermann is a retired aerospace engineer, a former mineral museum supporter, and the author of the blog Mineral Museum Madness.