What's new at the Arizona Capitol Museum
By Stephanie Mahan, Curator
If you’ve been to the State Capitol grounds recently, you may have noticed some changes under the copper dome. The Arizona Capitol Museum, a division of the Secretary of State, has experienced quite the transformation since Secretary Michele Reagan assumed office in January of 2015.
It started with an enhanced mission to "celebrate Arizona's vibrant cultural heritage through history.” The new direction has enabled museum staff to expand their efforts beyond Arizona’s governmental past.
Last fall, the museum welcomed a temporary exhibition of documents and artifacts from the town of Tombstone’s earliest days in local collector, James Melikian’s, Legends of the West. In October, a permanent installation on the history and work of the Arizona Judicial Branch, complete with a replica judge’s bench built and donated by the Arizona Supreme Court staff. This project completed the Arizona Capitol Museum’s goal of equally representing the three branches of state government.
In December, the museum commemorated the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor with a one-day-only popup display of rarely seen USS Arizona artifacts including mementos belonging to the crew and items retrieved from the ship. The artifacts complimented the ship’s silver service and a section of the superstructure which are on permanent display.
In addition to refreshing the exhibit experience, the historic building now features a full coffee shop – cleverly named Common Grounds – and an expanded Museum Store, freshly stocked with Arizona beer and wine just in time for the holiday season.
The Surreal Life of Fife Symington opened in February and chronicles the former Governor’s family life, campaign for Governor, indictment, and eventual pardon by President Bill Clinton. The exhibit is located in the Arizona State Library and will run through the end of May.
The Arizona Capitol Museum also expanded a program of traveling art and history exhibits fulfilling their mission to explore the broad scope of the Arizona experience. Recent seasonal exhibits include Get Out the Vote: An Exhibition of Design for Civic Engagement, featuring posters encouraging voting for election season, and At Work in Arizona: The First 100 Years, a photographic retrospective of a century of Arizona business sponsored by the Alliance Bank of Arizona. The museum continues to work with Phoenix’s Sister City, Taipei, to host the work of Taiwanese artists with annual exhibits.
This year the museum plans for a new exhibit on voting rights, representation of the 22 Tribal Nations located in Arizona, as well as expansions to the historic Governor and Secretary of State offices, to include current news and information. The Arizona Capitol Museum is also collaborating with other state agencies to highlight their important history.
The Arizona Capitol Museum is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm and Saturdays (September through May) from 10am to 2pm. Admission is free and tours are available by online reservation for groups of 10 or more. The museum features four floors, more than 20 exhibition areas, and a store showcasing some of Arizona’s finest products.
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