What is the Grand Canyon Museum Collection?
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.