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Tue, Oct. 15

Museum's history is made up of people … their stories and their work<BR>

Readers who have followed this series on the institutional history of the Sharlot Hall Museum (a clip-and-save for all of us) are aware of this anniversary year, 2003 marks 75 years of museum service to the community and the region (on June 11, 1928, the first guest signed in).

Sharlot Hall herself, the founding director, served for the first 15 years, or the first fifth, of the museum's history, from 1928 to 1943, when she passed away at the Arizona Pioneers' Home.

The second fifth, or 15-year period, 1943-1958, was a time when Sharlot's personal friends and other community leaders pulled together to keep the museum running, sometimes barely.

The third 15-year period, 1958-1973, was a time when the dedication of Museum Director Dora Rosenblatt Heap and a board of quality leaders such as Ted Liese built a bridge from a mostly volunteer-run organization to the beginnings of a professional staff.

The fourth 15-year period, 1973-1988, saw the emergence of a modern museum under the management of long-time director Ken Kimsey. Dr. Kimsey and his growing professional staff began shaping and growing a full-service museum, replete with research facilities, festivals, new exhibits, and new buildings. The large brick Museum Center was constructed during Kimsey's progressive tenure, and the Bashford House was relocated to the museum campus.

In this fifth 15-year period, 1988-2003,which completes our 75-year span, I have been privileged to be part of the museum team for eight of those years, 1995-present. What strikes me the most about the past eight years is the dynamism of the human resources, the real people, who have brought their love and their labor to the Sharlot Hall Museum. I'm not just talking about staff, but also about vigilant board members and volunteers and the great good mass of the general dues-paying membership. I cannot, for lack of space and for lack of complete recall, name everyone who has added value to this institution during my watch. But I'll attempt a recollection anyway, with a chronological approach that may aid my memory.

In 1995, Interim Director and Senior Archivist Sue Abbey welcomed me to my new job. She then almost immediately retired and went fly-fishing. She's still out there, bothering the fishes in mountain streams. Earl Swanson was board president, and my first hosted meal was at his house, a delicious bowl of minestrone soup prepared by his wife, Elaine.

Another retirement happened during my first months, when Angeline Henry stepped down as Curator of Education. She started the annual Folk Arts Fair, now in its 30th, and happening this very weekend. Come on down. Warren Miller is now her more-than-able successor in that position. Warren hired an assistant soon after, Dr. Anita Nordbrock, whose attention to detail has benefited the Education Department enormously. Michael Wurtz, who manages one of the finest research facilities in the Arizona museum world, succeeded Sue Abbey.

Mona McCroskey took the oral history program from a murmur to a shout and her contributions span the archives and the museum.  Paul Ferrari was added as a darkroom technicianphotographer for the museum in the late 1990s.  Wurtz has seen three assistants move through his department. Anne Foster is now an archivist in Alaska. Dr. Juti Winchester is now the curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyo. Mike's current assistant, Lorri Carlson, has provided new levels of direct service to the "drop-in" public.

The position of Curator of Anthropology was established and funded in 1997, and the standard has been set with the first and current staff anthropologist, Dr. Sandy Lynch. Sandy keep us sensitive to issues and opportunities with Native Americans, and also honchos the highly popular Prescott Indian Art Market, now in its 6th year, July 12 and 13. The position of Exhibits Designer was taken to full-time, and George Fuller now serves not just this museum but many others in the territory with his artistic talents and his design expertise. Some of the "old guard" that have been on staff since the 1980s, and who have provided vital help to this director, include Norm Tessman, senior curator, who will be our next retiree in a few weeks, after 25 years of superb multitasking with collections, exhibits, publications, and education. Mick Woodcock, collections manager and living history coordinator, is pleased with his new/old Ranch House, which re-opens for the public this weekend, and which was lovingly restored by Bob Fields, facilities manger, and Cody Bennett, facilities technician. Carlos Parra, lead custodian, occupies that most important position, "curator of cleanliness."

In my eight years here, I have benefited from the advice and counsel of such board presidents as Susan Coleman, Lois Longfield, and the current president, the perceptive and inspiring Richard Ach. Former board president Nancy Burgess continues to care and to make helpful suggestions for a truly community museum. To name all board members who have cycled through during my time here would be deserving for them, but a faulty exercise for me. Still, in fiscal matters, Pete Dickinson, John Thomas, and Jean Noel have done good work. In legal matters, Ethan Wolfinger, Chick Hastings, and Dick Walraven have stepped up. And in issues of public image and public service, Elisabeth Ruffner, Dr. Jeffrey Ashworth, Bill Fain, Sen. Boyd Tenney, Sen. Carol Springer, and Pat Jacobsen come immediately to mind.

The gestalt of museum work is found in the team members mentioned above. As we move into our sixth 15-year period, 2003-2018, we will address a master plan and a fundraising campaign that will subtly transform the Sharlot Hall Museum. Staff members contributing to this transformation include Gayle Schambach, retail manager, who looks forward to running a larger operation, a store rather than a gift shop; Becky Hays, development and membership coordinator, who is nurturing the many friends and foundations who can help with their targeted philanthropy; Gail Sisson, who looks forward to a new reception area and a new phone system; Kelley Cabral, my most valuable administrative assistant because she is the business manager and knows how to pinch the pesos; Jody Drake, manager of Blue Rose Theater, whose own performance as Sharlot herself always gives me shivers of inspiration; Barbara Rogers, graphic designer, who flair for color and composition are unrivaled; Jessica Manley, another management partner, for she is in charge of our loyal army of volunteers; and Steve Whitley, master gardener and groundskeeper, whose meticulous work is visible through the seasons.

New board members will always cycle through and provide meritorious service, such as current board members Lynn Chesson, Alan Kenson, Dr. Patricia Law, Dana Sharp, Gail Hulett, Jeffrey Ogg, Swayze McCraine, Myra Musgrove, and Ernest Jones, Sr.; and nominated board members Dr. Barbara Gillis, Arnold Gray, Mike Strasser, Jr., Tim Moynihan, Susan Schepman, and Nick Malouff. Public officials are always ready to lend a hand, such as Mayor Rowle Simmons, Sen. Ken Bennett, and Rep. Lucy Mason. My personal highlight of this 75th year was the appearance of Gov. Janet Napolitano, who helped inaugurate our year of celebration.

(Richard Sims is the director of the Sharlot Hall Museum.  The museum will be celebrating its 75th year on Saturday, June 14, from 1 to 4 p.m.  The Geritol Hipsters will be playing, clowns will be clowning, and cake, punch, and coffee will be served.)

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