Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fading into history?

Does the Arizona Historical Society have a future? Attendance at its history museums suggests that it may not. The trend in the plot below clearly shows continued loss of public support. The only significant increase is the one time increase during the centennial year, when 10,000 people apparently came to look at quilt displays.

Particularly absurd is the just over 3,000 annual attendees at the huge 80,000 square foot museum in Tempe. That museum has a $1.3 million annual mortgage payment, and ten state paid employees. What is the justification for keeping it open?

Taxpayers provide the AHS with over $3 million in cash every year. The hidden costs of maintaining the many state owned facilities are obviously greater than that. Therefore, the state subsidy is obviously hundreds of dollars per museum visitor and rising

How long will this be allowed to continue?

Total attendance at six AHS history museums by fiscal year.

Note 1: The attendance numbers are from the Arizona state budget where they are show as a performance measure. They do not include attendance for a State Park facility managed by the AHS or for attendance at the mineral museum in FY2011.

Note 2:  The attendance at the mineral museum was over 50,000 per year.  The AHS closed it in less than a year of gaining control of it.


  1. The attendance of the AHS museums dropped by a rock when they started charging admissions charges. Guess the public and visitors from other states didn;t think it was worth the price.

  2. A state rest stop in Gila Bend gets more business.

  3. For the longest time the AHS had an employee who's job it was, was to coordinate the rentals in the AHS facilities. Guess he didn't a very good job.
    With 3,000 visitors in the Tempe/AHS museum it looks like there are no rentals, meetings or school tours. Or very many people using the research library there.
    The Phoenix Zoo had a million visitors last year. 3,000 visitors is about one afternoon's worth of visitation. Must get pretty lonely at the front desk at the AHS in Phoenix?
    That's about 8 visitors a day.

  4. The AHS strategy of running off with the state mineral collection and using it to try to boost attendance, especially at the floundering Marley in Tempe has backfired. As a Tempe resident, I have occasion to drive by the Marley, and have not seen enough cars in the parking lot on a typical day to cover more than the big staff and a very few visitors. I never saw a school bus--the MMM was free and had wonderful programs for students--the Marley charges schools and has no educational program. When AHS decides to wreck history, they really do a good job!

  5. The AHS can never hope to replace the MMM either at the Marley in Tempe or by trying to reopen the Phoenix cite. They simply do not have the expertise to manage history museums with good educational programs and their attendance figures show this. Adding some rock and mineral and mining displays to the Marley, after their hostile, rude, and illegal closing of the successful and well attended MMM is not going to be a big drawing card for them. Without a staff knowledgeable in earth science, visitors are on their own.

    1. Look at it this way. AHS destroys a striving mineral museum and steals what is left to build a small mineral gallery exhibit space in the corner of a museum that only 3,000 people a year will see? Just how stupid is that.