Budget cuts hurting Arizona’s museums; institutions, parks falling into disrepair, forced to close

[Source: Jim Walsh, Arizona Republic] — Even as Arizona prepares for its centennial in 2012, the state’s history is becoming less and less accessible to the average citizen.  Museums across Arizona are cutting hours, restricting programs, merging or closing altogether in the face of drastic budget problems.  The State Archives, which had been open only two half-days a week, is trying to figure out how to go to a four-day schedule with a diminished staff.

And state parks, many with historical significance, can’t turn enough money at the gate to maintain aging and sometimes-dangerous facilities and stay open.  The impact is significant: In a state where so many people are newcomers, the institutions that can help them connect to their new state’s history are harder to access.  “The more people know about their place, the more likely they are to be good citizens,” said Dan Shilling, an expert in civic tourism and a former executive director of the Arizona Humanities Council.  Museums play an important part in extending that knowledge, Shilling said.  [Note: To read the full article, click here]

Yuma history under Arizona governor’s budget ax

[Source: Stephanie Wilken, Yuma Sun] — Cuts in Gov. Jan Brewer’s state budget could close the Sanguinetti House Museum in Yuma and three other history museums across the state, cutting the state’s past out of millions of Arizonans’ lives. Brewer’s proposed state budget would cut $473,000 in funding for the Arizona Historical Society.  The society operates four museums around the state and houses the state’s historical archives, totalling about 1 million artifacts — some predating statehood.  The proposed cuts would reduce the funding by 20 percent a year for the next five years, which means state support for the society would end completely in 2015.

Mark Haynes, president of the Rio Colorado Chapter, the Yuma chapter of the society, said he is dismayed that the governor would propose anything like that.   But Paul Senseman, spokesman with the governor’s office, said in a time when the state is facing an estimated $3 billion deficit, there are proposed cuts across the board — even in education and social services.

Haynes said the cuts would have a “pretty big impact,” and without the Sanguinetti House, Yumans will have no place to see their history, research the past, including the area’s history of mining and agriculture.  “Once it’s lost, it’s very hard to go back and recapture what you’ve lost,” he said.

The Sanguinetti House is one of the oldest adobe structures in the state, Haynes said.  And if the museum closes, it could affect its three employees — two full-time and one part-time — along with about 20 volunteers.  Haynes said the possibility of local, private funding could help provide minimum maintenance to sustain the facilities, but there is no firm answer if that could happen.  He said this proposed cut is the latest round, with cuts from the Legislature dating back to 2001, which eliminated various positions and aspects of the society’s functions. “This is just the last nail in the coffin, so to speak,” he said.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]