Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Museum bill advances in state Senate

Senate Bill 1200, which would transfer the former Mining & Mineral Museum from the Arizona Historical Society (AHS) to the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS), passed 5-0 in the Arizona Senate Rural Affairs and Environment Committee yesterday.

The bill directs AZGS to re-open the museum as the Mining, Mineral, and Natural Resources Education Museum, to include the elements planned for the proposed Centennial Museum that was never developed - agriculture, livestock, specialty crops, tourism, and education. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Gail Griffen, told the committee that her intent is that the museum would encompass forestry, range management, and wildfire impacts as well.

The bill would also transfer $428,300 from the Arizona Historical Society to AZGS to cover the rent on the building and the salary for one curator. [Right, the former museum drew as many as 25,000 school students each year]

A report from the Arizona Dept. of Administration and AHS completed in December, estimated it would cost an additional $2.1 million in one-time capital costs to make the building ready to open and annual operational costs including an educational program, would run $294,000.    Those costs are not factored into SB1200.


  1. 25,000 students a year visited the museum on formal school field trips. Over 15,0000 more were brought by scout leaders or family members for an informal learning experience. Hence the claim that over 40,000 children a year visited the museum. The numbers are supported by museum attendance records.

    The $2.1 million is what the AHS wanted to open a new museum (not a mineral museum) in the building. Reopening the mineral museum would cost far less.

    The $294,000 a year is what it would cost AHS to operate a new museum. The mineral museum operate for decades with only 20% that mush funding. There was only one state paid employee. The mineral museum had public support and self supporting activities that AHS museum do not have.

  2. Anonymous8:12 PM

    A high maintenance woman wants diamonds for Xmas, 50 to 100 pairs of shoes for her wardrobe collection, has at least 30 outfits to wear to work so she does not wear anything twice in the same month, a brand new car every 3 years, and to go out to dinner 5 times a week as she has no idea what a kitchen is for.

    For years AHS has been an agency that will only operate and produce a museum or exhibit that cost something the federal government would be in charge of similar to keeping a high maintenance woman happy. The now defunct Centennial Museum went from $9 million to $15 million in a matter of months. Yes, what they produce is generally up to date and very nice. However, there is a huge cost involved that does not always cost money up-front. A museum that costs a lot to produce charges admissions that students cannot afford. The AZMMM gave programs free to the students where they learned all about the uses of minerals in society, and then about 90% of the schools supported the programs and paid the tour guide salaries by buying rocks, minerals and their treasures in the gift shop.

    AHS already receives the salary package for their curator from the state. Where do they come up with the $294,000? Tour guides are supported by the store and the gift shop did well enough to repurchase supplies. I remember that the state even came in and raided some of the store's extra money and took it to help the state with their budget woes.

    1. The $294,000 figure includes the cost of the curator which is already included in the funds that would be transferred to AZGS, so it could be reduced by that amount. However, the ADOA-AHS cost estimate does not include the salary for a gift shop employee(s) nor one time costs to buy inventory to stock that store. Those costs would have to be added.

      ADMMR records demonstrate an annual operating cost of a couple hundred thousands of dollars per year in addition to the rent. Gift shop sales could hopefully cover some of that but that doesn't come free.

  3. Dick, thanks for explaining where the 40,000 student number came from. The ADMMR annual reports for the last five years of the museum operation showed ~25,000 students out of total attendance of ~50,000. This suggests ~10,000 paid admissions to the museum per year, which will be helpful in project attendance and revenues.

    As to operating costs, ADMMR transferred $589,700 to AHS in 2010 with the museum. Assuming rent has not increased since then, that means the ADMMR operational costs were $229,400 per year, including the one curator position. That is not that far off the ADOA estimate to re-open the museum. In addition to the curator there was paid staff running the gift store and selling/collecting tickets. The ADOA-AHS report proposed some specific education programs, including a traveling exhibit that we would not necessarily implement, but programs do have costs.

    Also, SB1200 does not call for simply re-opening the old museum. It effectively calls for opening the Centennial Museum concept with a different name. The language is clear as is the sponsor in what is expected.

    1. In 2010, the rent was $525,000. The money transferred to AHS was for rent plus one employee (curator). The rent has gone down since.

    2. The favoritism shown to AHS is puzzling. The mineral museum had to pay rent on a state owned building that has no mortgage, but the AHS gets free rent on the Marley Center Museum in Tempe that has a $1.3 million annual mortgage payment.