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‘Phoenix Isn’t Known for Its Museums.’ Until Now.

Monday, March 19, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jacki Presnal
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by Tom Evans, Contributing Writer (Frontdoors)

We may live in the fifth-largest city in the United States, but one thing we don’t have is truly special, unique museums like other major cities. Right?

Well, unless you count the Heard Museum, which is only the premier showcase of Native American history and art in North America. But other than that …

There is the Musical Instrument Museum, a facility that’s not only a magnificent tribute to the history of music — one of the most fundamental concepts in our society — but also a tremendous community gathering place and resource in its brief history in the Valley. 


And yeah, there’s also the Arizona Science Center, an architecturally stunning icon that boasts some of the world’s finest exhibitions around science and education on a regular basis.

And of course we have to count the Children’s Museum of Phoenix in the mix, which provides joy and learning to hundreds of thousands of children each year in an ever-expanding mix of activities and exhibitions.

I guess we should also mention the Phoenix Art Museum and its decades-long track record of bringing exceptional works from some of the world’s most renowned artists to the desert. And the Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park, which showcases the state’s 106-year history. And Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park, which celebrates the impact of the Hohokam on the Valley.

I’m on a word count, but you get the idea — for a city not known for its museums, we sure do have an awful lot of good museums. 

“The growth and development of the Valley’s museums and cultural institutions over the last 10 years or so has been very exciting,” said Chevy Humphrey, the Hazel A. Hare president and CEO of Arizona Science Center. “Visitors are recognizing the value these institutions have on their daily lives to provide educational experiences, inspire thought and creativity or provide pure entertainment.”

People nationwide are starting to notice. Not just the tourists who end up being pleasantly surprised after planning a visit for spring training or to see the Grand Canyon. But also, the Valley’s quality museums are gaining notice in the museum world, if you will.

In May, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) will hold its annual meeting in Phoenix. Not New York, not Los Angeles, not Chicago — in Phoenix. The gathering brings in more than 5,000 cultural experts each year to provide opportunities for networking and information-sharing.

According to the organization’s leadership, they picked Phoenix because of the incredible amount of diversity and education that our own museums provide. Humphrey was critical in putting Phoenix’s bid together and ensuring the Valley would host the conference.

“AAM has been around for over 100 years and this is the first time the conference has been hosted in Phoenix,” Humphrey said. “The nation is recognizing the impact our institutions and its leaders are having on our community and this is our opportunity to show colleagues in our field the great work we are doing to inspire Valley residents, but also the thousands of visitors Phoenix sees each year.”

By the way, speaking of diversity, the first five museums I mentioned above have women as their CEOs or executive directors. And that’s just a snapshot of the diversity you see when you look at each institution, diversity that carries through not only what is exhibited but through the people that make the museum experiences possible.

So what’s next? More of the same, but by “same” I mean dynamic growth for many of these organizations. The Heard Museum just completed an expansion, and the Children’s Museum continues to open new exhibits and features. The Arizona Science Center is currently hosting one of its most significant exhibits ever with “Pompeii.” In short, our established museums are thriving, and new offerings are popping up all the time.

Phoenix may not be known for its museums — at the moment. But that’s starting to change, and as we grow our museums, we’ll grow our identity as more than just a sunny spot in the desert.



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