Museum Collection

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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

Grand Canyon National Park 2019 Safety and Health Review Report (8.2 MB PDF File - July 2019)

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 radiation-labeled buckets of stored rock samples, some of which contained uranium, were identified in the Museum Collection facility as a possible safety risk.

Q:Who made up the safety team?
A: The safety team was an interagency team of experts—

  • Timothy Radtke, DOI Office of Occupational Safety and Health and Co-Team Lead

  • Michael May, NPS Office of Risk Management and Co-Team Lead

  • Kate Flanigan Sawyer, DOI Chief Medical Officer

  • Stacy C. Wertman, NPS Office of Safety, Health and Wellness (PWR)

  • Michael M. Quinn, DOI Chief Industrial Hygienist

  • Hillary A. Smith, NPS Mining and Abandoned Mineral Lands Program Lead

  • Maria Said, NPS Epidemiology Branch Chief

  • Ashley Hines, NPS Administrative and Budget Specialist

  • Veronica Dickerson, NPS Contaminants Cleanup Branch

  • AECOM Technical Services, Inc., Certified Health Physicist

Q: How did the safety team conduct their work?
A: The review team was tasked with investigating the exposure of park employees or visitors to radioactivity from uranium ore stored in the park’s collection, determining whether the health and safety of any park staff or visitors may have been materially impacted, and recommending next steps to strengthen park safety. The investigative team:

  • Conducted a facility assessment including a radiation dose reconstruction to determine the level of exposure when rock samples were stored in the facility.

  • Interviewed employees to document the manner in which the materials are/were stored, employee work practices and likely exposure pathways.

  • Analyzed past assessment reports and available radiation safety practices.

  • Developed recommendations for managing collection samples in the future.

Q: What were the safety team’s findings pertaining to radiation exposure?
A: The investigation’s exposure-modeling estimates indicate that past employee and visitor exposures are not a health risk, and that current radiological conditions in areas of concern do not post a health risk.

Q: Why were original radiation measures so high?
A: Based on a review of pertinent records, information collected during interviews, site observations, and conclusions of the technical report, the radiation measurements provided in initial reports were inaccurate and indicated radiation levels approximately 200 times higher than expected based on background levels and historical survey data. The review found that the safety officer reporting the readings was unfamiliar with the operation of the Ludlum Model 3001 Multi-Detector Digital Survey Meter and did not have prior experience or specific training related to the instrument. This tool was more than likely improperly configured during the survey conducted by the safety officer.

Q: Was the safety team’s work reviewed?
A: Yes, the interagency safety team’s report was reviewed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Q: What are the safety team’s recommendations regarding museum collections moving forward?
A: The safety team recommended that the National Park Service 1) develop written policies and procedures to ensure that employees and managers are aware of potential hazards within their workplace and take appropriate actions to mitigate risk; 2) provide appropriate safety and health training for employees based on their workplace exposures and potential exposures—including training for chemical, physical, and biological hazards arising from museum objects; 3) implement an ongoing facility inspection program to identify, document, and correct hazards in the workplace; and 4) while there is no immediate health concern, wipe down cabinets were park employees stored the uranium ore with lint-free cloths and mild non-hazardous cleaning solution to remove the low-level residual contamination.

Q: Why did the report take so long to complete?
A: The report required assembling a team of experts, contracting with a technical contracting firm (AECOM Technical Services, Inc.) for the estimated dose reconstruction, employee interviews and site visits, and third party review by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) prior to completion. In the public interest (and understanding the report would require proper vetting and review), the safety team released its preliminary findings in March 2019. The team’s preliminary findings are confirmed in the final report.

Q: What are the next steps?
A: The NPS is finalizing a corrective action plan to strengthen the workplace safety culture at Grand Canyon National Park and implement recommendations developed by the interagency safety review team.

 
Researcher pulls out specimen from large rack.
Museum Collection, circa 1935

Museum Collection Contact Information

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

Call the staff at (928) 638-7769

Email The Museum Collection Staff

 

Collections:

Archaeology Collection

 
Series of four twine figures in deer-like shapes
 

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
  • Prehistoric basketry
  • Ancestral Puebloan pottery
  • Prehistoric sandals, textiles and adornment artifacts
  • Mining and early tourism artifacts
 

Ethnology Collection

 
Traditional basket woven of black and tan twine

The material artifacts of the native cultures that have inhabited the Grand Canyon region from the historic period through the present, including:

  • Havasupai baskets
  • Hopi kachinas, pottery, baskets
  • Navajo silver, rugs, pottery
  • Paiute baskets
  • Ethnobotanical materials
 

History Collection

 
Top: John Wesley Powell's watch, Bottom: John Hance talking to Teddy Roosevelt

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
 
Touching up the white paint-job on a wooden boat

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.

 
view of archive room with records stored in space-saver storage racks, 3/4 view of storage.

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
 

Biology Collection

A collection of plant and animal specimens that document the life zones of the Grand Canyon region, including:

 
Yellow swallowtail butterfly pinned to white paper
  • 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.

 

Geology Collection

 
Dark gray Vishnu rock specimen with blue tint
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
  • Mineral specimens
 

 

Paleontology Collection

 
Yellowed sloth skull against white backdrop

The fossil remains from past geologic periods at Grand Canyon, including:

  • Bass limestone stromatolites
  • Cambrian eocrinoids
  • Hermit shale ferns and insect wing
  • Coconino sandstone reptile tracks
  • Pleistocene ground sloth remains
 

Services

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.

 
Banner image linking to ASU Nature, Culture and History at the Grand Canyon shows Grand Canyon scenic view with superimposed letters: ASU Nature, Culture and History at the Grand Canyon
The "Nature, Culture and History at Grand Canyon" website is the park's primary online source of historical and cultural information, Click on the photo above to visit.

Last updated: August 7, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Phone:

928-638-7888

Contact Us