Tuzigoot Museum Reopening Observance Commemorates 75 Years of NPS Service

Tuzi Museum 1937
The Historic Museum and Visitor Center at Tuzigoot in 1937.  Construction of the building started in 1935 and was completed with displays inside the structure by the end of 1936, opening to the public early the next year.

Tuzigoot National Monument Administrative Files

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News Release Date: May 9, 2011

Contact: Ed Cummins, 928-567-3322 x227

National Park ServiceNews Release
Immediate Release – May 9, 2011
Ed Cummins, Chief Ranger, MOCA/TUZI, 928-567-3322 x227

Tuzigoot Museum Reopening Observance Commemorates 75 Years of NPS Service

Clarkdale, AZ—A celebratory gathering and open house will mark the reopening of Tuzigoot National Monument's historic visitor center and museum Friday, June 3, 2011, with the open house continuing through Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5, 2011. There will be no fee during the three-day period.

Park superintendent Kathy M. Davis will deliver opening remarks at 10 a.m. on June 3, and Park Ranger John Reid will give an overview of the museum and highlight the legacy of 75 years of service to the public.

On June 3, Superintendent Davis will also present heritage awards in recognition of individuals and organizations making contributions to historic and cultural preservation. "Many people are so dedicated to saving our historic buildings and cultural heritage so future generations will have these resources available to them," she explained. "We want to say 'thank you' to these volunteers and organizations who donate time, materials and hard work to remind us why preservation matters, and is so very important to the community."

Kathy Davis initiated the redesign project in 2004 and the Tuzigoot museum was closed for renovation in November, 2010. Over the past seven years, under the direction of National Park Service Exhibit Specialist Sue Fischer, many partners contributed ideas, concepts and designs for the project. Beth Grindell, director of the Arizona State Museum, Tucson, Russell Varineau, museum exhibit designer, ASM, and NPS museum curator Gwenn Gallenstein of Flagstaff, supervised additional components of the design installation.

"The last time the museum and visitor center was renovated was in the mid-1970s and since then there has been new research and different interpretation of the information," explained Kathy Davis. "We did not want to drastically change the atmosphere of the museum, but we felt it was important to present new findings, insure better conservation for the artifacts, and especially consult with Tribal people and incorporate their viewpoints into the display."

Starting in 2005, Sue Fischer began developing the sequence of exhibits designed to relate the story of Tuzigoot, and the people who inhabited the area before European contact. As text and artwork was created, she consulted with Tribal representatives, graphic designers, scientists, and interpreters to gain a broader perspective.

"The new exhibits are a mix of the old and the new," she explained. "We wanted to keep most of the original cases and some of the displays, but present the information in a different manner. This is truly one of the most collaborative projects I have worked on." She added some of the artifacts, never before on public display, are on loan from the Coconino National Forest, and the project is representative of government and Tribal agencies collaborating to present a balanced and expanded story of Native people in central Arizona.

John Reid, Park Ranger at Tuzigoot for almost 30 years added the latest redesign is a continuation of 75 years of regularly updating the museum as new research became available. "About every 20 years they would redo the exhibits and reorganize the display cases," he explained. "When we dismantled the cases in December we found earlier works of art under displays installed for the 1970s renovation".

According to Sue Fischer, many of the exhibits and display cases were recycled and fabricated to utilize the solid woods and fine craftsmanship of past local woodworkers. Gary Whitaker of Tucson was able to stabilize, trim, and refinish the historic cases while constructing light fixtures, display case trim, graphic frames, and computer touch screen trim from old exhibit structures. Several of the original 1935 solid walnut display cases, built by the Clarkdale High School wood shop, and not reutilized, are on permanent loan to the new Verde Valley Archaeology Center in Camp Verde, AZ., while three of the cases are curated at the NPS Western Archeological and Conservation Center in Tucson.

Tuzigoot National Monument's visitor center and museum is one of the few New Deal era buildings still being used for that purpose, according to Sue Fischer. The building is an example of National Park Service rustic architecture, designed to be in harmony with the natural surroundings, and complimentary to the resource it interprets. The renovation project also funded a complete updating of the electrical and security systems and added a sprinkler system to protect the building and its contents from fire.

The excavation of the archeological site now known as Tuzigoot, was approved as a Civil Works Administration project in 1933. The land was owned by the United Verde Copper Company of Clarkdale, Arizona, and the Depression era project was designed to provide temporary income for unemployed mine workers. 

Grace Sparkes of Prescott, then chair of the Yavapai County Civil Works Administration Projects Committee, viewed the Tuzigoot endeavor as a means to bring tourists, and income, into the Verde Valley. Artifacts and pottery from the 1933-34 excavation were cleaned and reassembled in the vacant Wingfield Dry Goods store in Clarkdale, providing employment for women in the community and others who were not physically able to work on the excavations. The woodworking and manual arts students at Clarkdale High School constructed solid walnut and glass-topped cases for the displays.

In 1935, the newly established Works Progress Administration (WPA) offered additional funding options for Grace Sparkes, who was able to demonstrate success and fiscal responsibility with her earlier programs. She secured a grant to build a museum adjacent to the site of Tuzigoot, on property now owned by the Phelps Dodge Corporation.  Since federal funding could not be used for construction on private property, Grace Sparkes and other supporters were able to convince Phelps Dodge to sell the land to the 29th Arizona School District for the cost of one dollar. Foundations for the new museum were laid by the end of 1935 and construction continued through 1936. By the end of 1936, the building was substantially complete with most of the displays in place, opening in early 1937. Following completion of the museum, Yavapai County officials began the process to secure federal funding, with the strong backing of Southwestern Parks and Monuments Superintendent Frank Pinkley.

In June, 1937, Pinkley announced that the Secretary of the Interior approved the acquisition of Tuzigoot, and two months later the school district transferred ownership to the U.S. government. But, there were complications and questions surrounding the transfer of school district lands to the federal government, which apparently, was against Arizona state law, so the state had to acquire the land from the school district to facilitate transfer of ownership.  A clear title was finally achieved in January, 1939, and on July 27, 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a proclamation establishing Tuzigoot as a National Monument.

"The celebratory observance and open house is designed to commemorate and express our appreciation for the support Tuzigoot has received from the community over the past 75 years," added Kathy Davis. "Generations of visitors have visited this special place, and we want to emphasize our commitment to preservation for future generations to enjoy." She added that much funding and assistance has come from bookstore purchases and staff support from Western National Parks Association, the park's non-profit interpretive organization based in Tucson.

Tuzigoot National Monument's summer hours, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will be no fee for the special weekend: Friday, June 3 through Sunday, June 5, 2011. At other times, the regular fees of $5 per adult, will apply. The Federal Annual, Senior, and Access recreation passes are accepted, and children age 15 and younger are no charge. For more information, call 928-634-5564.


Last updated: February 24, 2015

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