Friday, April 10, 2015

Rebuttal (detailed)

As reported in the March 29, 2015 post, the AHS attacked SB1200 with misinformation. The March 29, 2015 guest post debunked the false AHS claims.

Because the AHS distributed their misinformation to 74 museums across the state that they certify, both the guest post and the following more detailed rebuttal were sent to each of those 74 museums on March 29th (can anyone who has read the AHS performance reviews see any value in AHS certification?):

Your museum may have received a letter from the Friends of Arizona Historical Society (AHS) regarding Senate Bill 1200.  SB1200 transfers the stewardship of the State’s mineral museum and its assets from AHS to the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS).  This bill has been progressing through the Legislature with unanimous or near unanimous votes in both Senate and House committees.  In all these proceedings, AHS had the opportunity to voice its opposition but chose to take a neutral position.  Instead, their supporters are asking you to oppose the legislation by calling the Governor’s Office.  Why?

The AHS supporters’ call for opposition is based on false statements and activities that openly violate Arizona Statutes.  A fact check of their arguments is provided below.  The rebuttal is based on information collected over the past five years and documented in detail on the blog “Mineral Museum Madness” at www.

False claims being presented by AHS supporters include the following:

False Claim No. 1: The Historical Society “inherited” the closed mineral museum and collections during the economic downturn
Facts: The mineral museum was not closed when the AHS "inherited” it. They were given control in August of 2010, and they locked the doors in April of 2011 for reasons never explained. At the time that AHS took possession of the mineral museum, it was performing far better than any AHS history museum, and students were still scheduled to arrive on field trips

The economic downturn had nothing to do with transferring the museum to the AHS or closing the museum. The transfer was part of the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum Bill. The AHS failed on the centennial museum project, just as they did on the History Museum at Rio Nuevo project in Tucson. They did not have the authority to close the mineral museum just because the centennial museum failed.

False Claim No. 2: The collection storage environment in the mineral museum building was inadequate

Facts: The claims of inadequate storage environments are completely unfounded. The specimens in the air conditioned mineral museum building were under the curation of a professional geologist with mineral collection experience. Furthermore, few minerals/rocks require a special storage climate, and the most valuable and aesthetic specimens in the collection were displayed (and stored) by experienced geologists. How does the AHS Tempe facility provide a better storage environment?

Who is caring for the many mineral specimens still in the abandoned Phoenix building? A mineral collection does require qualified handlers.  A formerly pristine and valuable crystal displayed by AHS at the Tucson Gem and Mineral show was observed to be damaged by improper handling.
There was a period of approximately 4 months immediately after the doors closed when items were being moved to other locations without the supervision of a curator.

The AHS actually did harm to the collection by separating it from the corresponding files on geology and mineral deposits. The AHS took the minerals, but not the data files. The data was salvaged by the Arizona Geological Survey and preserved, even though it was not funded to do so. The AHS did further harm by renumbering specimens. The numbers on the specimens now no longer match the numbers in the mineral and geological files preserved by AZGS, and the usefulness to researchers has been compromised.

False Claim No. 3: The Historical Society is efficiently and effectively maintaining the Mining and Mineral Museum in Tempe

Facts: The AHS is not ‘efficiently and effectively maintaining the ‘Mining and Mineral Museum” in Tempe. The “brand new natural history exhibit” in Tempe is but a fraction of what was on display at the Phoenix location and pales by comparison. In particular, the educational displays and historic mining equipment are not included.  AHS cannot realistically claim that their current efforts in any way constitute 'maintaining the Mining and Mineral Museum.
In fact, its actions are not even lawful. The AHS acted in knowing defiance of A.R.S. 41-827 as established by House Bill 2251 (49th Legislature). In particular, the Allen amendment to that bill required that the mineral museum be preserved in its entirety at the existing location in combination with the centennial museum. It specifically stated that no part of the museum was to be dispersed or disposed of. The AHS has reportedly transferred other museum (State) property, such as display cases, to nongovernmental agencies and private individuals.

 As for efficiency, there is absolutely no justification for the AHS claims. The Marley Center Museum has 10 employees and has 3,400 visitors a year. The largely self-supporting mineral museum had one state paid employee and over 50,000 visitors per year. The total cost to the state was the salary for the single employee (curator) and the use and maintenance of the mortgage-free, historic, state-owned building.

The AHS does not effectively maintain the museums it has. In the Marley Center Museum near Papago Park in Tempe, museum displays have been in a chronic state of disrepair. That museum is certainly not “flourishing”.

False Claim No. 4: Leaving the “museum” where it is currently (in Tempe) will allow it to progress and flourish.

Facts:  There are absolutely no reasons to believe that the “museum” will “progress and flourish” in the Tempe location. The Marley Center Museum was plagued with problems from the beginning and received extensive media ridicule. It is not a successful museum. It has few visitors, and the AHS does not even maintain the interactive displays.  Displaying only a minute portion of the state mineral collection in the Marley Center Museum will not cause the Marley to flourish.

False Claim no. 5:   It makes sense and is good government for the Museum to stay with the state agency that runs museums

Facts: It makes better sense for the AHS to focus their resources on their existing history museums rather than further dilute their focus on an expanded mineral and science venue. Why is a struggling historical society a good place for a science museum? The management problems associated with the AHS are numerous.

The AHS has never received a clean performance review. The reports are public records and are available on the Arizona Auditor General’s website. Past reviews show chronic disregard for state policies and procedures, incompetence, and even corruption. They also show an inability to manage and preserve collections.

The AHS has demonstrated an inability to properly manage their history museums.  AHS museums do not attract adequate numbers of visitors. The most recent AHS attendance figures are on page 236 of the FY2016 Budget and are as follows:
Tucson History Museum                                               7,014
Tucson Downtown Museum                                            927
Tucson Fort Lowell                                                       3,086
Yuma Museum                                                              2,066
Marley Center Museum –Tempe                                  3,375
Flagstaff Museum                                                        6,277
Flagstaff Mansion (state park property)                     22,008
Total                                                                            44,753

While the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum was still operating, attendance was over 50,000 visitors a year. Its K-12 education programs served 25,000 students a year arriving on school field trips. Another 15,000 children came with scout leaders or family for an informal learning experience.  AHS combined attendance at its seven facilitates statewide does not equal mineral museum attendance during its last full year of operation.

Closing the museum effectively stole the resources from those who appreciated it the most, the students and their teachers.

False Claim No. 6: The AZGS does not have museum management experience and will not be able to operate the mineral museum. 

Facts: The AZGS does have museum management experience. Due to the prior merger of the AZ Department of Mines and Mineral Resources with the AZGS, the AZGS now has staff members that once managed and operated the successful mineral museum. As shown above, the mineral museum was more effective and efficient than AHS history museums. Not only does the AZGS have museum management / operation experience, its experience is clearly superior to that of the AHS.

The AZGS is a highly efficient state agency. Less than 10% of its budget comes from state funding.  The AZGS is primarily self-supported by fees and grants for services that it provides to customers / clients. The AZGS staff includes nine experienced, highly trained, professional geologists. Some have advanced degrees. The AZGS is eminently qualified to preserve and display the state mineral collection. They are also uniquely qualified to make the collection specimens and supporting geological data available to researchers and to provide mineral education programs. Arizona will benefit by having the mineral museum attached to the AZGS.

Arguing that the AHS should continue to manage the now closed (for four years) mineral museum because it specializes in managing history museums makes no sense whatsoever.

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