Originally Published: March 29, 2008 9:31 p.m.
PRESCOTT - The Sharlot Hall Museum is a state institution, but private donations paid for its state-of-the-art new archives and library.The museum hosted a grand opening party for its new library and archives Friday with local dignitaries as well as the numerous people and companies that made it a reality.Some of the major donations came from Prescott Newspapers Inc., Arizona Public Service and Nancy Kirkpatrick Wright."The Daily Courier Research Center will offer the people of this community the most complete, comprehensive window available on the history and development of this part of Arizona," said Kelly Soldwedel, general manager of Prescott Newspapers Inc., during the ceremony Friday.She noted how her grandfather started his media company - Western Newspapers Inc., the parent company of PNI - by buying The Daily Courier newspaper 50 years ago."In all our growth, since 1958, we have not forgotten our roots and commitment to this community," said Soldwedel, whose brother, Brett, was at her side.The museum successfully raised about $400,000 to remodel the building that houses the library and archives, in spite of huge cuts in its state financing in recent years, museum board president Ed Kurowski said. The building sits across McCormick Street from the main museum campus."This is a bright spot in a dismal time," said Ryan Flahive, library and archives director. The state covered 75 percent of the museum's budget a decade ago, and today it pays only 45 percent, he said. Now facing severe budget problems, a state government hiring freeze cut out money for the museum's education director and custodian, who both recently retired.The 5,000-square-foot library and research center includes a separate audio-visual center, seminar room, rare book room, extended research room, and wireless Internet access for all patrons."This actually is the most exciting time I've seen in the last 30 years," said Bobby Fields, the museum's physical plant supervisor and its longest-serving employee at 32 years. He led the extensive renovation work to create the library and archives rooms.State historian Sharlot Hall founded the museum 80 years ago in an old log cabin, Kurowski noted."I bet she's looking down and seeing this and thinking how wonderful it is," benefactor Nancy Wright said.Wright recalled how she cataloged Sharlot Hall's papers back in the 1980s during a sabbatical from her job as the Yavapai College librarian. She now has paid for a special extended research room for scholars.Wright is excited to see Sharlot Hall's own book collection get a special place inside lawyer bookcases in the rare book collections room."Sharlot's library is reconstituted for the first time since she passed," museum director John Langellier noted. The books sat in a basement for years because of lack of space, Flahive added.Staff offered tours of the library and archives during Friday's grand opening event."I did research in the other building, and this is great," said Janet Jones, wife of Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe President Ernie Jones Sr., during the tour. "I'm coming back."Fields said he originally figured he'd tear out walls and make the library one big room, but then museum board member Comer Wadzeck suggested leaving existing walls.It worked out well, Fields said. "It's just plain more inviting."The Arizona Public Service seminar room features an interactive white board, which people can write notes on, then hook a computer into the board's interface hub and download the notes.The audio-visual center includes computers, microfilm readers, a light table, music turntable and cassette player.Local rare book dealer Richard Cady helped museum staff sort out books for the rare book collections room, Flahive said. Like Sharlot Hall's collection, many of these books had languished in storage for lack of space."He was astonished at what we had, and what people didn't know we had," Flahive related. The room also features a large piece of history - an ornate table from the home of the late Judge Edmund Wells. His home now is the Arizona Ruffner Wakelin Funeral Home, which donated the table, a matching sideboard and an Christmas 1894 photo of the furniture. The Room Store donated the rest of the library furniture, and Arizona Window Blinds donated the window treatments.The archives storage area features movable shelving that triples the size of the storage space, Flahive said."We had stuff in three different storage areas before," he added.Off the storage area is the Carlos Parra Room that houses maps and volunteer workspace, bearing the name of the staff's beloved custodian who recently retired.As an added bonus, the museum center building now has an extra 2,700 square feet of exhibit space where the library and archives once sat, Fields noted.Contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.orgClick the play button below, or double-click the image to view a brief video from this event Daily Courier video produced by Les Stukenberg