Originally Published: August 6, 2015 7:23 p.m.
The subject of history is surrounded by culture and heritage, not always available solely from a book or classroom. And that's where the Sharlot Hall Museum comes in, capturing the history, culture and heritage of Yavapai County and the Central Highlands, from the early prehistory of the area to the 150-year history of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Department and everything in between. Sitting on the site of where the government for the Arizona Territory was founded, the museum was found to be the number two most visited place in Prescott, according to a 2008 survey.
Ken Leja, media and marketing manager for the museum, said the Sharlot Hall Museum is not just four walls, but a four-acre campus that brings the experience of an oasis in the middle of the desert.
"You have a different kind of feeling when you come through those doors, you're at a garden, you're at a tremendous oasis that's full of historical artifacts as well as artifacts and material that can pique your interest and almost relive history," he said. "This is a great way to discover our heritage, our culture, as well as become enthusiastic about our community."
According to the museum's executive director, Fred Veil, the Sharlot Hall Museum was founded by Sharlot Hall in 1928. He said she came to Arizona as a 12-year-old in 1882 and though she wasn't educated, she became literate, noting that Hall was a poet, author, historian and activist who was ahead of her time and saw the need to preserve Arizona's history. Veil said Hall started collecting artifacts that represented the pioneers and the Native Americans from an earlier age and used them to start the museum. However, it wasn't until after her death in 1943 that the museum was called the Sharlot Hall Museum.
Veil said the museum started in the governor's mansion and has expanded since then and now occupies a four-acre campus with 10 exhibit buildings.
"Four of them are historic structures, including the governor's mansion, Fort Misery, the Bashford House, the Fremont House and other exhibit buildings," he said. "We have a full service library and archives across the street where we have hundreds of thousands of images... maps and documents... over 40,000 three dimensional objects."
Veil said the museum has had several interesting exhibits over the past, mentioning a series of changing exhibits that displayed the art of Native Americans who are active participants in the musuem's Prescott Indian Art Market, as well as an exhibit that displayed the archaeological discoveries from the digging for the parking garage on Granite Street when the site was discovered.
Currently, the museum has on display an exhibit presenting 150 years of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, and Veil said that in May 2016, there will be an exhibit that honors and recognizes Medal of Honor recipients who earned it for their service in Arizona during the Indian Wars or those who were born in Arizona and received it for actions on foreign soil. Veil said it will open on Armed Forces Day.
According to Veil, the idea for the Medal of Honor exhibit came from someone he knew who found a Medal of Honor earned by an Apache Indian Scout in 1873. Veil said the medal was taken, had a story developed around it, as well as all the other Medal of Honor recipients and was done in conjunction with the Arizona Historical Society.
Veil stated the reason visitors keep coming to the Sharlot Hall Museum is their interest in history and learning something about this part of Arizona.
"We're not just a museum, we're a historical site," he said. "We're the site of where the government for the Arizona Territory was founded. We have on our grounds the governor's mansion, where Governor Goodwin sat and signed into law the various documents and laws that... governed the Arizona territory which was the cornerstone for its development into statehood and into Arizona as it is today."
- Jason Wheeler