The Grand Canyon Museum Collection is a storage and research facility dedicated to preserving the physical artifacts that tell the various aspects of the Grand Canyon story. The storage facility, completed in 1999, has over 6,000 square feet of climate-controlled storage and research space, and houses over 1.6 million objects from seven different disciplines: archeology, ethnology, history, archive/ manuscripts, biology, geology and paleontology. Staff receive more than 2,000 research requests each year.
The Grand Canyon Museum Collection is open for study and research purposes to any interested researcher. In order to maintain its integrity, the collection may be used for reference only in a non-consumptive manner.
Museum staff must be present and will assist visitors in their searches. Because objects are irreplaceable, their use is generally restricted to onsite examination.
Frequently Asked Questions about the NPS Review of Potential Uranium Exposure
Q: Why was an investigation initiated?
A: In June 2018, Grand Canyon National Park hosted a team of safety inspectors for a recurring environmental safety audit. During that audit, three 5-gallon buckets of stored rock samples, some of which contained uranium, were identified in the Museum Collection facility as a possible safety risk.
Q: What happened to the samples stored in the three 5-gallon buckets?
A: On June 18, 2018, the NPS moved the samples to a restricted area at the Orphan Mine site, which is closed to visitors and most employees.
Q: Where did the samples come from and when were they collected?
A: Per NPS museum catalog records, the samples were collected between 1944 and 1965. The collection sites were primarily Orphan Mine on the South Rim, and one sample was from Monument Valley, AZ. The samples have been in the park's collection since then and moved to the current facility between 1999 and 2000. Previously the samples were stored at the park headquarters building with other archival and research items.
Q: What is the Grand Canyon Museum Collection?
A: The Grand Canyon Museum Collection is a storage and research facility dedicated to preserving the physical artifacts that tell the various aspects of the Grand Canyon story. The storage facility, completed in 1999, has over 6,000 square feet of climate-controlled storage and research space, and houses over 1.6 million objects from seven different disciplines: archeology, ethnology, history, archive/manuscripts, biology, geology, and paleontology.
Q: How many people visit the Museum Collection building each year and what does a typical visit consist of?
A: Up to 1000 visitors and researchers each year visit Grand Canyon's Museum Collections by appointment and reservation. Most visit as part of a 60-90 minute tour. The rock samples were not part of the tours; however, tours did walk through the area where samples were stored.
Q: Did I visit the Museum Collection on my trip to Grand Canyon?
A: The Museum Collection building is located in an administrative area that is separate from visitor use area. Few visitors to Grand Canyon visit the Museum Collection. It is open by appointment to researchers and the public for a limited number of tours. All access to the Museum Collection is supervised by NPS staff.
Q: Why were the rock samples stored in the Museum Collection?
A: The NPS stores samples at its museum collection facilities as part of research collections and to have representative samples of park resources.
Q: Is there a current risk to visitors, researchers, and staff using the facility?
A: Inspections of the facility since June 2018 have indicated that the Museum Collection building is safe for visitors and employees. Staff work routines are occurring as normal.
Q: How has this issue been communicated to staff?
A: Documentation of the sample contents and storage locations have been tracked and updated by NPS staff since their collection. Since the environmental audit in June 2018 identified a concern, park staff have been updated through a series of all-employee emails.
Q: What are the next steps?
A: The NPS is assembling an interagency investigatory team of subject matter experts that will arrive at Grand Canyon in the coming weeks. The team will review past reports and assess radiation safety programs/practices, provide recommendations regarding how samples are managed in the future, and address the potential for long-term health monitoring, if applicable. The team will also look at the level of exposure and risk to park employees and visitors. More specifically, the investigation will include a facility assessment including a radiation survey to determine exposure, document the manner in which the materials are/were stored, employee work practices, and likely exposure pathways. To ensure impartiality, the team's final report will be peer reviewed by outside experts prior to release.
Q: Where can I find more information?
A: The NPS will update staff and the public as new information becomes available. The NPS expects a report from the investigative team within 90 days. The NPS will update a recorded phone line (928-638-7688) and this webpage (nps.gov/grca/learn/historyculture/muscol.htm). You may also email firstname.lastname@example.org with specific questions.
2C Albright Avenue, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
(Located across from Albright Training Center)
Monday through Friday 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Appointments are strongly recommended
The material remains of past human life and activities at Grand Canyon, including:
Lithic tools dating back 12,000 years to the Paleo-Indians
Archaic split- twig figurines
Ancestral Puebloan pottery
Prehistoric sandals, textiles and adornment artifacts
Mining and early tourism artifacts
The material artifacts of the native cultures that have inhabited the Grand Canyon region from the historic period through the present, including:
Hopi kachinas, pottery, baskets
Navajo silver, rugs, pottery
Non-archaeological material artifacts of the non-native cultures at Grand Canyon, including:
John Wesley Powell's pocket watch
The Walter Clement Powell diaries from the second Powell expedition
A pen used by Woodrow Wilson to sign the act creating Grand Canyon National Park in 1919
Photos from the 1873 George Wheeler expedition
Over 200 oral history tapes, videos and transcripts
Over 1,000 maps and blueprints
More than 24,000 black and white photographs
Over 200 rare or out-of-print books
Over 80 hours of historic film footage
Original paintings by Thomas Moran, Louis Akin, Gunnar Widforss, Hiroshi Yoshida
Historic Boat Conservation Project
The Grand Canyon historic boat collection is comprised of 19 boats that comprehensively illustrate the history of river running on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, with the oldest boat dating back to 1909.
The project to conserve this unique collection started in July 2003, with the removal of the boats from unprotected exhibit. The conservation efforts continue with each boat receiving a meticulous cleaning and stabilization treatment from professional conservators.
Archive/ Manuscript Collection
The document collection tells the Grand Canyon story through photos and in writing, including:
350 linear feet of park archives
1930's CCC project reports
Superintendents' Monthly Reports, 1931-1967
The Mary Colter Desert View Watchtower collection
The Louise Hinchcliffe park library vertical files
The 1935 Vegetative Study record
TWA - United airlines 1956 air accident files
A collection of plant and animal specimens that document the life zones of the Grand Canyon region, including:
Over 14,000 herbarium specimens, including the Rose Collom, Walter Cottam and Merkle collections
Over 9,000 entomological specimens
Over 2,000 animal study skins, skeletons and scat materials
An alcohol collection with over 300 reptiles and amphibians
More Grand Canyon herbarium specimens are stored at the Museum of Northern Arizona Herbarium, the Northern Arizona Deaver herbarium, and the Desert Botanical Gardens, near Phoenix.
Rock samples that tell the geologic history of the Grand Canyon region, including:
The John Maxson schist collection
The Eddie McKee study collection
Mining cores and ore samples
The fossil remains from past geologic periods at Grand Canyon, including:
Bass limestone stromatolites
Hermit shale ferns and insect wing
Coconino sandstone reptile tracks
Pleistocene ground sloth remains
The Museum Collection has a collection of over 22,000 black and white photographs that may be loaned, scanned or purchased for exhibit, research and publishing projects. Several photos can also be copied onto CD-Rom’s for purchase.
Onsite photocopying services are available.
We Need Your Help
The park is always seeking donations to enhance the collections. Contact Museum Collection staff for information about donating photographs, documents, or other materials.