As the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum begins its transformation into a Centennial Museum, those affiliated with the mining museum share their concerns about the future of its extensive and valuable mineral collection.
Ted Simons: But first, we have a follow-up to a conversation we had last night with the director of the Arizona historical society about plans to build a museum to commemorate Arizona's centennial. That museum will replace the Arizona mining and mineral museum, which has a history dating back to 1884, years before Arizona became a state. The mining museum opened its current location near the capitol building in 1991, but this year the museum is scheduled to close. So work can begin with a centennial museum. It's a sore spot for people closest to the mining museum, as David Majure reports.
David Majure: On any given school day, hundreds of students can be found hunting for treasure. At the Arizona mining and mineral museum.
David Majure: But that all ends this summer when the museum closes to make way for an Arizona centennial museum.
Joe Ann Hesterman: I just love this place. I'm sorry but I don't want to see it close.
David Majure: Joe Ann Hesterman has worked here since 1997.
Joe Ann Hesterman: I work here because I've always loved rocks and minerals.
David Majure: As a former teacher, she enjoys sharing her passion for earth science with many of the more than 20,000 school kids who visit the museum each year.
Joe Ann Hesterman: Every teacher I've had this year has been quite upset about the whole fact that this is closing. But the important thing is our book is full of appointments for school kids to come in here, and learn about rocks and minerals. They need to keep this museum open. It is Arizona's history.
David Majure: But recent history isn't on her side. The Arizona department of mine and mineral resources which ran the museum is no longer in business. The functions of that department have been turned over to the Arizona geological survey, and in 2010, Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill transferring control of the mining museum to the Arizona historical society. Which will oversee its transformation into a centennial museum called the Arizona experience.
Bob Holmes: I was upset. It came about very quickly.
David Majure: Bob Holmes volunteers as chairman of the board for the department of mine and mineral resources, which ceases to exist at the end of may.
Bob Holmes: The idea of a new museum is wonderful, but not at the expense of the wonderful museum display we have here.
David Majure: Thousands of rocks and minerals are on display. Some belong to the museum, others are on loan.
Harvey Jong: We have a case of California minerals, we have Midwest, worldwide minerals, Arizona minerals are on this side here. First case here there's Bisbee, we have all kinds of Bisbee minerals. Bisbee is a very famous copper mine location.
David Majure: The collection belonging to the flag mineral foundation is among the museum's finest.
Harvey Jong: This spiraled kind - this spiraled kind is one of my favorite, an unusual formation forms inside the caves of Bisbee.
David Majure: Valued at nearly $2 million, it's an impressive collection of specimens from Arizona and all over the world.
Harvey Jong: We're trying to find a new venue where we can display these minerals, because it's about preserving the minerals and allowing them to be displayed and enjoyed by the general public.
Ray Grant: I think everything on loan is going to be - well the people that have loaned it have the right to take it, and I think most people will -- they don't want to leave it, it's a little bit risky perhaps just to leave it in the building packed up somewhere.
David Majure: Ray grant is a geologist and chairman of the flag mineral collection.
Ray Grant: We're going to pack our collection, the flag collection, and hopefully we'll find a new place to put it in the next year or so.
David Majure: The future for the rest of the museum's collection is even more uncertain.
Bob Holmes: We're not sure what's going to become of these minerals? Are they going to be set away and stored forever? Are they going to be surplussed? We don't know. We're not sure they know.
Ray Grant: Well as far as we know it going to be packed. I'm here today, I want to go get some pictures of a few samples for a project I'm working on, because I don't think I'll see these things again in my lifetime. Seriously.
Anne Woosley: The mining museum will change.
David Majure: The Arizona historical society's director Anne Woosley says some specimens will be exhibited at the new Arizona experience museum.
Ray Grant: They're going to have a small mineral gallery, maybe a few percent of the collection will be on exhibit, and we have no idea what will happen to the rest of it.
David Majure: In an email to "Horizon," Woosley wrote, "because we don't wish to "warehouse" materials, thereby making them inaccessible to the public, working with others, we are developing plans to place displays at appropriate public locations and museums around the state."
Bob Holmes: We just want to make sure they're in good hands.
David Majure: Supporters of the mining museum hate to see its collection dismantled, and they're searching for solutions to keep it together.
Ray Grant: All the groups that meet here, are trying to get together, talk to the geological survey, trying to talk to the museum in Tucson, trying to see if we can find another location in Phoenix where we can actually have something equivalent, where we can have the educational program, where we can have a museum.
David Majure: Meanwhile, those closest to the museum are still hopeful they can save the place.
Joe Ann Hesterman: So we can keep this place open. We're fighting to the hilt. Some people might think it's a done deal, but actually, we're not going to give up until we have to give up. Our number one important reason for being, is education.
Ray Grant: My real feeling of loss was the kids, the educational program. And all the things they could do here. And I don't see where there's going to be a place like that for them. So to me, that's really terrible. The collection, I just would like saved, but my personal feeling is education, I just love what they do here with the kids.