Wednesday, June 10, 2015

An open letter to the members of the Arizona Historical Society

Public statements made by AHS representatives are diminishing the reputation of your Society.  In public hearings, AHS representatives have complained that the AHS has “taken grief” from mineral museum supporters, and referred to them as “wild Indians”.  They have even made disparaging remarks about the Legislature. AHS representatives have also made false public statements about the mineral museum closure.

Arizona Revised Statute 41.827* requires the AHS to continue operating the mineral museum in a portion of the existing building in Phoenix, and in particular to maintain the “outdoor equipment” that was a key part of the popular museum. The fact that the centennial museum (AKA experience museum) project failed did not justify closing the mineral museum. The AHS has been funded to operate the mineral museum every year since, and has a clear statutory responsibility to do so.  Instead, the AHS fired the staff and changed the locks while children were still scheduled to arrive for school field trips in the spring of 2011.

All mineral museum supporters are trying to do is restore a top rated and extremely popular science museum that served over 40,000 children per year (as well as over 10,000 adults). AHS lobbyists and management have been obstructing every effort to do this, and have now assured that at least 200,000 children will have been or will be deprived of a unique, lifetime learning experience. It is the children that are “taking grief”, not the AHS.

Be aware that Auditor General reviews of the AHS have, over a period of 20 years, never been satisfactory. Also be aware that attendance at your museums is fading rapidly. Your Tempe museum in particular is in serious trouble. It has ten state employees and a $1.3 million dollar annual mortgage payment, but only attracted a mere 3375 visitors last year. How long will taxpayers continue funding it as attendance falls? Particularly in Phoenix, the AHS public image is not good. Continued whining about an imagined wrong related to the mineral museum mess will only make it worse.

Please ask AHS management to allow people capable of doing so to restore the mineral museum for the children. Focus on using the generous resources that state taxpayers still provide you to improve your history museums.



  1. The attendance for the AHS facilities (except Riordion House in Flagstaff) are dismal. Even the Riordion House was done by over 2,000 a year. Can't loose there because it's on the way to a real museum at the Museum of Northern Arizona and the road to the Grand Canyon. Flagstaff is busy all year long due to it's location.
    All of the other facilities have close to nothing on their attendance. It was not always that way. It's due to the charging of admissions, lack of interesting exhibits and no public relations. And no community support because the director just does not care about that. Hard to care about community support when you never leave your office. The communities of Tucson and Phoenix just does not care about AHS.

  2. I recently visited the AHS "Gallery of Natural History" at the Marley (Papago) in Tempe. After 4 years to restore the Mining and Mineral Museum in Phoenix (by AHS statute) all that is left of the MMM is a small room with cases of some of the minerals AHS removed. This display in no way represents what the MMM did. It is a sad testimony to what was taken from our science students and teachers. AHS removed everything from inside the building and now there is no sign of the exciting educational displays and hands-on experiences they were mandated to keep. And most irritating, this selfish agency tried to tell us the MMM was up at the Marley during the fight over SB1200. AHS cannot restore the MMM, they did not even take a careful inventory of everything (not just the state minerals) they removed or threw away. They should willingly return everything they took, and allow an agency with integrity to bring the supporters back and let them restore this much used museum for our students.

  3. Guess Madison Barkley is not an exhibit designer? Or anyone else there for that matter.

  4. After over a year of trying to replace Dr. Rasmussen, a museum director with impeccable qualifications, who left shortly after AHS was given MMM responsibiility,
    Madison Barkley took the position AFTER the Saturday Might Massacre which abruptly fired the staff (who had years of experience and earth science backgrounds) and threw the students and teachers out
    without a care for the damage they were doing. Madison Barkley took the position with everyone knowing she did not meet the "museum experience" requirement in the job description. She inherited the mess AHS made when they removed everything from the building, and now we know they did it without keeping a detailed inventory of everything (an expected
    procedure in the museum industry). The blame here is clearly with the director and lobbyist who violated AHS statutes they helped to write, and failing to tell Madison about it when they hired her. She did what she was told to do and it doesn't come close to anything the MMM had for kids. Without the thriving gift shop that funded ten part time guides, AHS quickly ran out of money to do anything significant--and this self-serving agency that can't pass and audit or review- just wants to bully the kids so they can keep the building. Newsflash--the building belongs to the people of AZ!!!

  5. Guess Bill Ponder liked her and hired her.

    1. Just what did Ponder and Woosley actually see in Madison Barkley? A degree in geology but no museum experience or education of kids experience. Certainly no exhibit design experience. Maybe a willingness to do what Woosley wanted. Seems to be a lot of that at AHS.