Arizona Historical Society
|Founded||November 7, 1864|
|Founder||Arizona territorial legislature|
|Purpose||collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate the history of Arizona, the West, and Northern Mexico as it pertains to Arizona|
The Arizona Historical Society (AHS) is a non-profit organization whose goal is to collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate the history of Arizona, the West, and Northern Mexico as it pertains to Arizona. It does this through 4 regional divisions. Each division has a representative museum. The state-wide divisions are as follows: Southern Arizona Division in Tucson, the Central Arizona Division in Tempe, the Northern Arizona Division in Flagstaff, and the Rio Colorado Division in Yuma. It was founded by the territorial legislature on November 7, 1864.
History of the Historical Society
The Arizona Historical Society was founded as the Society of Arizona Pioneers. With a new railroad being built and change on its way to Tucson, Arizona, pioneers worried that their stories of battles with the desert heat and the Apaches would be lost forever. The society was founded to preserve these stories and provide charitable service work to the local community as a mutual aid society. Original Historical Society members were often prominent members of the community, and their tasks with the society included attending funerals and raising money to help out widows.
Over time, the Society evolved to provide storage for official state papers and collect the histories of many Arizona citizens. The society has faced several periods of financial difficulty, and difficulty storing their collections safely. Collections expanded beyond the capacity of facilities several times, until a one block large basement was created to store records and documents at the current Main Museum.
Today the Society maintains several museums in the state with the generous help of over 3000 members and dozens of volunteers.
Exhibits and Collections
The Museum at Papago Park - Desert Cities; Ghosts of Arizona; and Views From the Home Front: Arizona Transformed by WWII.
Downtown Tucson Museum - Exhibits featuring early downtown Tucson. Downtown Tucson business is prominently featured, including artifacts from a barbershop, hotel, and drugstore. Free time activities are also explored with exhibits that discuss music, theater, dance halls, gambling, and church in Tucson.
The Fort Lowell Museum - The Fort Lowell park actually is the site of what use to be Fort Lowell. Part of the medical wing of the fort still stands, as well as the trees planted to mark the road to the fort. A small museum is located at the park and it contains exhibits related to the fort history and military history in Tucson in general. Uniforms and photographs of military life show viewers what life use to be like at Fort Lowell.
The Arizona History Museum - The largest AHS museum in the state, the Arizona History Museum frequently rotates its exhibits on Arizona history. It has several major exhibits that are currently on display:
The Geronimo Exhibit depicts the history of Geronimo and Arizona's reactions to his legacy. This exhibit features Geronimo's rifle among a series of artifacts from his life.
Dia de los Muertos, an exhibit memorial to the January 8th shooting shows Arizona's reaction to the event by displaying the ways people chose to express their solidarity and grief.
150 Years of Arizona History, a special exhibit exploring the sometimes-scandalous history of the Historical Society complete with 150 favorite artifacts selected by Society employees.
The Natural History Collection mostly contains information and artifacts pertaining to mining with more than 21,500 specimens and objects. The size of this collection is due mostly to the aquesition of collections held by the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum, previously maintained by the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources (ADMMR).
Library and Archives
The Arizona Historical Society currently houses a large collection of published and unpublished historical documents in its library and archives division. The collections are divided among 4 locations in Arizona, with each location specializing in certain aspects of history. The Society lists its collection specialties as follows:
"Tucson Collections Strengths: Territorial era, Southern Arizona and borderlands, business, genealogy, ranching, politics, mining, military, law, non-profit and grass roots organizations, ephemera, photographs, and maps.
Tempe Collections Strengths: 20th Century, Maricopa County and Central Arizona, oral histories, architectural drawings, TV news reels, aviation, banking, healthcare, business, non-profit organizations, arts and culture, photographs and photographic studios.
Yuma Collections Strengths: Territorial era to 1940s, Western Arizona, oral histories, agriculture, genealogy, military, local organizations, education, church history, early transportation (railroad, steamboats, plank road), aviation, business, Lower Colorado River, irrigation, Yuma Prison, and photographs.
Flagstaff Collections Strengths: Territorial era to 1950s, Northern Arizona and Colorado Plateau, business, politics, law, lumber industry, railroads, genealogy, local organizations, Indian Pow Wow records, education, healthcare, maps, oral histories and photographs."
AHS libraries are staffed by knowledgeable librarians who can aid in professional research or answer general research questions at the research help desk.
The Journal of Arizona History
The Historical Society publishes a quarterly journal. The journal is issued to members, and contains articles about Arizona history. Photo essays and reviews are included along with standard articles. The Historical Society additionally publishes books, a list of which can be found on their website.
- Sonnichsen, C. L. (1984). Pioneer heritage : the first century of the Arizona Historical Society. Tucson, AZ: Arizona Historical Society. ISBN 0910037213.
- Arizona Historical Society, Library and Archives
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