The return of the Phoenix mineral museum

Seven years ago, a bit of political malpractice gave the Arizona Historical Society control of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum on the Capitol Mall in Phoenix. Subsequently, AHS failed to raise funds for their plans for the building. Then, in 2011 the AHS did the unthinkable. They locked the doors as children were still scheduled to arrive on school field trips. The reason for the closure has never been explained, and 240,000 children have now been deprived of a lifetime learning experience.

Bills to fix the mess were introduced in 2015, 2016, and 2017. They all received extraordinarily strong bipartisan support, but the Governor vetoed the 2015 bill. As explained in prior posts, the veto was most probably secured by AHS lobbyists.

The 2016 bill became law, but someone (AHS lobbyist?) managed to amend it with a poison pill. If the museum did not reopen in two years, it reverted to AHS. Then, the Arizona Department of Administration (legal owner of the building in 2016) refused to allow the building to be re-occupied as is. ADOA demanded that the tenant pay for $2.5 million in upgrades before re-occupancy would be permitted. Obviously, no one was going to spend money on the building so long as there was a chance AHS would get it back. Even an attempt at fundraising was pointless.

Finally, the 2017 bill (SB 1415) brought an end to the seven years of nonsense when the Governor signed it on April 28. The bill eliminates any possibility of the AHS ever regaining control of the museum and it transfers ownership of the building from the ADOA to the University of Arizona. The UA is now in complete control, and can begin cleaning up the mess made my AHS.


Prior to the AHS takeover, the mineral museum was a part of the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources. That state agency no longer exists, thus the assignment of the museum to the UA.

The dedicated determination of Senator Gail Griffin, a strong advocate for natural resources education, is responsible for the corrective legislation. She sponsored each of the tree bills, guided them through House and Senate, and eventually obtained the Governor’s signature. Students and teachers will be forever grateful for her extraordinary efforts.

Update from AZGS


New location for Tucson Mineral Museum

The University of Arizona has a world class mineral collection, but on campus museum space is very limited. Therefore, the UA is taking advantage of an opportunity to lease space in the old Pima County Courthouse. The historic building is currently being renovated, and is conveniently located only 6 blocks from the Convention Center where the annual Tucson gem and mineral show is held. In addition to a large display gallery, the UA will also be able to have a mineral research center in the new facility.

Reference: Jones, Bob, On the Rocks, Rock and Gem, January 2017, page 81


MM&NRE Museum Update 8 Nov. 2016

Museum Stakeholders Meeting

AZ Mining, Mineral & Natural Resources Education Museum Stakeholder Engagement Meeting

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016 (10:30 – 11:45 am)

Polly Rosenbaum Building @ 1502 W. Washington St., Phoenix

We are making progress on re-establishing a museum at the Polly Rosenbaum Building on the Government Mall in Phoenix. It seems high time to provide you, our stakeholders, with a full accounting of that progress: the museum conceptual model, our successes (e.g., transfer of the building and the AMMM mineral collection to AZGS) challenges we face moving forward, and potential opportunities for involvement at this stage.

This is our opportunity, too, to listen to your concerns and begin forging a team of individuals dedicated to rebuilding, reopening and operating a mining, mineral and natural resources museum in Phoenix.


  •  Introductions
  • Senator Gail Griffin – Conceptual Model & Legislative Role
  • AZGS Staff – Vision & Update on partnership with the University of Arizona
  • AZGS Staff –  Next Steps: Business model, building condition, timeline, partnerships & communications
  • Stakeholders – Your thoughts, concerns, interests & engagement

AZGS MM&NRE Museum Team: Mike Conway, Rowena Davis, Catie Carter, and  Phil Pearthree – Interim Director of AZGS


Phoenix mineral museum news

Guest post by Robin Evans:

Dr. Phil Pearthree is the acting interim Director of the Arizona Geological Survey and he presented a program on October 5th to the members of the Arizona Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists regarding the AZGS and University of Arizona merger.  He spent a good amount of time talking about the museum and seemed very optimistic that it would be reopened.  Speaking about the AZGS budget, he presented many good reasons encouraging the different geological organizations as well as the students present  to write to the Governor’s office and to the legislature to restore the funding for AZGS.  The University of Arizona will be sending out their own team of people to review the structure of the museum to get an accurate estimate for the repairs in and around the building.  Also, I found out that Lee Allison’s replacement will be appointed by the Dean of the Science college, not the Governor.  Dr. Pearthree is a very upbeat person, and it appeared that this was a cause he really supported. He mentioned to the audience that there was a need to get children interested in the earth sciences and asked everyone to look around the room and the reflect on the amount of gray hair present.  The museum was a way to getting kids into the science pipeline and that pipeline is currently shut off, as proven by the fact that only three college students showed up for the presentation and they were given a free dinner and beverages for the evening – two from Glendale Community College and one from ASU (and the event was at a brew pub in Scottsdale).


The Arizona Mining, Mineral & Natural Resource Education Museum

The following text consists of selected excerpts from a recent email message distributed by the AZGS:

On 6 August 2016, the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) received custodianship of the former Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum.  The transfer was mandated by Senate Bill 1530, which also transferred AZGS to the College of Sciences at the University of Arizona. This bill charges AZGS with designing, opening and operating the facility as the Arizona Mining, Mineral & Natural Resource Education Museum (MM&NRE Museum).  The focus of the new museum is on the historical, cultural, economic and social contributions made by the mining, mineral, natural resources, timber, livestock and agricultural industries of Arizona.

Along with the facility at 1502 West Washington Street in Phoenix, AZGS receives funding for one full time employee, a mineral curator, and a mineral collection of approximately 21,000 specimens with an estimated value of $3 million.

By statute, the Arizona State Geologist and Director of AZGS is the chief administrator of the new MM&NRE Museum. The State Geologist’s responsibilities include operating and maintaining a museum for collecting, cataloging, and displaying mining, mineral and natural resources artifacts and specimens. Other tasks by statute include establishing a funding stream of grants and financial gifts, procuring financial assistance from federal, state and local governments, establishing and collecting entrance fees, operating a retail gift shop, developing and managing volunteer services, and paying maintenance and operation expenses.

According to the Arizona Dept. of Administration, the building requires an estimated $700,000 to $900,000 in structural and cosmetic repairs before it can be occupied. In addition to producing monies for these repairs, the search for adequate and sustainable funds to create innovative and engaging exhibits depicting the fascinating development of Arizona’s natural resources is anticipated to be the museum’s biggest challenge.

As a research institute in the College of Sciences at the University of Arizona, AZGS has access to resources and personnel with years of experience in fundraising, museum management and displays, and logistics. AZGS intends to leverage these resources to speed the process of opening the MMNRE Museum along.

AZGS staffers, Mike Conway, Rowena Irene Davis, and Catie Carter, are now on task and moving forward.  AZGS will set up a dedicated MMNREM e-mail (, but until it is operational, Mike Conway’s address will be used: Museum supporters desiring detailed updates on AZGS progress in establishing MMNREM should ask Mike to add them to the email mail list.

Lobbyist fired

Prior posts have lamented how lobbyists have overridden the will of both the people and the Legislature to prevent the mineral museum and its K-12 educations programs from being restored.

Therefore, an article in today’s Republic (referenced below) provides very welcome news. The Governor has fired all state contract lobbyists, including the AHS lobbyist.  Students, teachers, and mineral museum supporters will no longer have to fight entrenched, taxpayer funded lobbyists that want the mineral museum building for their own selfish purposes.


Sanchez, Yvonne Wingett, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey fires state’s contract lobbyists, the Republic | 6:39 a.m. MST June 30, 2016