“Perhaps, in the not too distant future, every Arizona home will have its own collection of Arizona books, and every Arizona citizen will have familiarity with such books.” ~Barry Goldwater
Each year, for the past four years, the Central Arizona Museum Association and Robinsons-May department stores have collaborated on a May Museum Month Promotion. Participating museums offer 2 for 1 admission or a free memento during the entire month of May. Museum Passports will be available at Robinsons-May stores around the Valley. May 18, considered International Museum Day, is the inspiration for this yearly event. Visit www.azcama.com for more information on May Museum Month.
Museums have something for everyone – history, art, science, anthropology, and more. There are many different kinds of museums. They may be indoors or outdoors. Art museums feature paintings and sculptures. Natural history museums contain things like dinosaur skeletons and examples of animal and plant life. Museums of science and technology have many do-it-yourself exhibits. Historical museums may cover the history of a region, city or town. Children’s museums specialize in exhibits created for and sometimes even by children. Libraries are a special type of museum. They are storehouses of books and writings.
This page contains just a sample of the many wonderful museums there are to choose from in the state of Arizona. Explore what they have to offer in the descriptions on this page, then go to see some of them in person. I bet you will be surprised at how many fascinating things there are to discover!
Adobe Mountain Railroad Museum – 23280 North 43rd Avenue #75, Glendale, 623-974-0125. Ride a small, narrow-gauge 1884 locomotive, see model railroad layouts and prototype historical displays. Display themes change regularly.
Arizona Capitol Museum – 1700 W. Washington, Phoenix, 602-542-4675 (info), 602-542-4581 (tours). This National Register site served as both the Capitol of the Arizona Territory and the State Capitol and has been restored to its 1912 appearance.
Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum – 1502 West Washington, Phoenix, 602-255-3795. One of the largest and finest mineral museums in the Southwest. Features permanent and changing displays of ore and minerals from Arizona and other states.
Arizona Museum for Youth – 35 N. Robson St., Mesa, 480-644-2467. An innovative, nationally recognized fine-arts museum for children. The exhibits encourage creative expression in a “hands-on” environment.
Arizona Science Center – 600 E. Washington St., Phoenix, 602-716-2000. Explore 350 hands-on science exhibits, travel to space in a planetarium, and experience the excitement of an Imax theater. Enjoy science demonstrations and traveling exhibitions.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum – 37615 East US Highway 60, Superior, 520-689-2811. Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden features thousands of plants from the world’s deserts. 323 acres with miles of nature paths and specialty gardens.
Cave Creek Museum – 6140 E. Skyline Dr., Cave Creek, 480-488-2764. Living history of the desert foothills. Displays of pioneer living, ranching and mining. Indian artifacts from the Hohokam, Yavapai, and Apache. Restored 1920s tuberculosis cabin and 1940s church.
Challenger Learning Center – 21170 N. 83rd Avenue, Peoria, 623-322-2001. A space themed learning environment includes a Mission Control Center, Space Craft, interactive exhibit area, video theatre, Galaxy Gift shop, and exhibitions. Reservations can be made to fly a simulated space mission, Rendezvous with a Comet.
Deer Valley Rock Art Center – 3711 W. Deer Valley Rd., Phoenix, 623-582-8007. View more than 1500 ancient petroglyphs in a protected desert preserve, plus indoor exhibits and video.
Desert Botanical Garden – 1201 North Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, 480-941-1225. World’s largest collection of desert plants in a natural setting. Tours, demonstrations, interactive exhibits, workshops, special events, café, gift shop, plant shop. Trails: Desert Discovery, Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert, Sonoran Desert Nature, Center for Desert Living.
Desert Caballeros Western Museum – 21 N. Frontier St., Wickenburg, 520-684-2272. Regional exhibits, period rooms, a re-created street scene, mineral collection, Indian artifacts, Western Art Gallery, and a park with native plant landscaping.
Fleischer Museum of California and Russian Impressionism – 17207 North Perimeter Drive (near Pima and Bell), Scottsdale, 480-585-3108. This beautiful collection of 300 paintings includes landscapes, architectural and figurative subjects, and still life.
Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting – 6101 East Van Buren, Phoenix, 602-275-3473. 90-plus restored pieces of vintage fire apparatus, dating from 1725 to 1968; plus children’s activities and a fire engine to climb aboard.
Halle Heart Center – 2929 S. 48th St., Tempe, 602-414-2800. The Halle Heart Center offers visitors the opportunity to learn how to join in the fight against the No. 1 cause of death in America – cardiovascular disease – in an innovative, hands-on way that will educate and entertain.
Heard Museum – 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-8848. Experience the cultures and art of Southwestern Native Americans in spectacular exhibits, traditional and contemporary artwork. Get a taste of what the Heard Museum is about at its branch location, Heard Museum North, El Pedregal Festival Marketplace, Carefree Hwy. and Scottsdale Rd.
Historic Sahuaro Ranch – 9802 North 59th Ave., Glendale, 623-939-5782. This 1885 homestead contains 17 restored original buildings. Changing exhibits, home tours and special events highlight the agricultural history of the west valley.
Katydid Insect Museum – 5060 W. Bethany Home Rd., Glendale, 623-931-8718. This museum features all kinds of insects and arachnids, both native and exotic.
Mesa Southwest Museum – 53 N. MacDonald, Mesa, 480-644-2169. This museum of cultural and natural history features permanent and changing exhibitions on Arizona and the southwest, from dinosaurs to ancient Indians, from the old west to the space age. Accessible exhibits for a family audience.
The Phoenix Zoo – 455 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, 602-273-1341. One of the nation’s largest non-profit zoological parks, it is home to more than 1300 animals, including 200 endangered or threatened birds, mammals and reptiles from around the world.
Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum – 3901 W Pioneer Rd., Phoenix, 623-465-1052. 90-acre walking area of history and lifestyle of territorial Arizona. Self-guided tours, interpreters in period costumes, historic Opera House, special events.
Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park – 4619 East Washington, Phoenix, 602-495-0901. Explore a prehistoric Hohokam Indian ruin, and let your children discover the excitement of archaeology in their hands-on exhibit.
For a comprehensive list of museums in Arizona (you won’t believe how many there are!) and direct links to their websites, click here: www.knowledgehouse.info/azfield_museums.html.
Did You Know…?
The word museum comes from the Greek word “mouseion,” meaning “Place of the Muses.” The first museum in the world was established around 330 B.C. in Alexandria, a Greek city in Egypt. This museum was built to honor the Muses, nine daughters of Zeus who were believed to be protectors of the arts and sciences. The museum included temples, gardens, a zoo, and a library.
The first American museum was built in Charleston, South Carolina in 1773. It focused on the natural history of the region.
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. was started in 1846. It is made up of separate museums that cover the subjects of art, science, and history.
One of the best-known outdoor museums is Colonial Williamsburg, containing more than 80 buildings that have been restored to the way they looked in the 18th century.
In Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, visitors can walk inside a real German submarine that was captured during World War II.
More About Museums
The Berenstain Bears and the Missing Dinosaur Bone, by Stan and Jan Berenstain, 1980. (A bone is missing from the Bear Museum, and the cubs set out to find it.)
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg, 1967. (A Newbery Award-winning classic in which two children run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)
Let’s Go on a Museum Hunt, by Francie Alexander and Nancy Hechinger, 1998. (A fun, informative story.)
Let’s Go to the Museum, by Lisa Weil, 1989. (Nonfiction book explains the history of museums.)
Don’t Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Random House Home Video, 1987. (A one-hour video that encourages children to discover the treasures in museums.)
http://www.knowledgehouse.info/museum.html (“Make Your Own Museum” article.)