A Little History of the Phoenix Museum of History

[Source: Boy Meets Blog]

The phone number to the building is disconnected and the website no longer exists. The glass doors are locked to the public and the exhibits removed because the Phoenix Museum of History no longer exists. Most of the artifacts once on display that link Phoenix to its early Wild West history and farther back to its ancient history are inaccessible to the public now that the city’s oldest museum of history is closed. Only a small portion of the exhibits will be back on display in 2011.

The Maricopa Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution recognized the need for a history museum as early as 1919, only 7 years after Arizona became a state. They established the Arizona Museum of History in 1923 as a private, non-profit organization and by 1927 the museum moved into its first building on 10th Ave and Van Buren where it remained until 1996. In 1988 the people of Phoenix approved the issuance of more that $1 billion in bonds allocating money for among other things, the construction of a new building for the museum of history. The Arizona Museum of History became the Phoenix Museum of History in 1995 and a year later it moved into the new bond-funded building in Heritage Square.

In 2009 during the throes of the Great Recession the City of Phoenix voted to eliminate the $100,000 annual donation to the museum, the final financial blow that forced the museum to close for the first time since 1923. The bond-financed building was gobbled up by the nearby Arizona Science Center who now leases the museum building from the city and uses it for educational purposes and office space. The museums assets were transferred to the science center as well.

But what are the long term plans? Will the museum be open again before the Arizona centennial? What happened to the exhibits?

Kristin Priscella, Senior Director of Communications at the Arizona Science Center, said that as part of the agreement with the City of Phoenix, the science center agreed to dedicate 5,400 square feet of space to showcase Phoenix and Arizona history downtown, but you’ll have to buy a ticket to the science center to see it. Priscella said the science center has until the end of this calendar year to assess the artifacts and determine a plan for the collections. However, January 1st 2011, something will be on display. Where the rest of the artifacts end up at this point is anybody’s guess.

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