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)?


  1. For the size and amount of money spent on this state agency the size of the attendance is pretty horrible!Hndreds of thousands and as many as several million tourists come to Arizona each year and the A.H.S. can't even attract more than this? Looks like the locals don't even want to go these places.
    I remember that the Fremont House in Downtown Tucson used to be open too. They used to have some great walking tours through the downtown too. They are closed too. The attendance of some of these museums has dropped up to 90% since the AHS started charging an admissions charge.
    Guess nobody wants to raise money. Some of these smaller museums were great but to charge $3.00 now, the public didn't think it was worth the price.

  2. It was because Bill Ponder told the Az State Legislators when asked how much the AHS would make if they charged an admission charge. He told them a fanciful number that was no where near reality.Then the legislators told AHS to charge.
    The rest is history. Attendance dropped to almost nothing from where the old numbers where.
    As Ponder and Woosley never come out of their offices how could they know what would happen. Couple that with a complete lack of an ability to raise money or have a community presence then this is what you get.