Executive Director Monica Buckle, Vere Valley Archeology Center. Photo by Ray Newton
by Ray Newton
Visits to the Verde Valley Archaeology Center in Camp Verde are increasing.
Monica Buckle, the executive director, says she’s thrilled to lead the only organization in the greater Verde Valley area dedicated to collecting, managing and curating archaeological artifacts from the Verde Valley.
A Cherokee native of Sallisaw, a small town in eastern Oklahoma, Buckle attributes much of that increase to a new location in the middle of town, 460 W. Finnie Flat Rd.
“When we ran out of space at our previous site, local donors became exceptionally generous in helping us fund the new museum facilities,” she says.
For decades, Buckle says, most artifacts from the Verde Valley had been moved to other locations: “Though Verde Valley artifacts have been exhibited in museums and universities around the world, only recently did local people become interested in preserving and restoring the continuity of Native American people and communities in central Arizona.”
She says three Native American tribes — the Navajo, Hopi and Apache — are particularly linked to the local Yavapai Apache Nation in the Verde Valley. The center is a research and educational organization devoted to preserving, interpreting and celebrating archeology where indigenous people have lived for thousands of years.
She credits enthusiasm for creating the center to Paul Dyck, an American painter who moved to Rimrock, a small community 10 miles north of Camp Verde.
During its first years, the museum grew slowly. It ultimately became a nonprofit 501(c)(3) governed by a board of 10 directors led by Cheri Meyerhofer.
The center bought the 11,000-square-foot, one-story building for $1.1 million. A former medical facility was turned into a space with entry hall, classrooms, exhibit rooms, research and educational laboratories and office space.
Much success in buying and remodeling is the result of a major grant from the Arizona Community Fund supported by longtime fund administrators Regional Director Jennifer Perry of Sedona and Regional Director Lisa Sahady of Prescott.
Buckle works with five other paid staff employees: Director of Archeology Kathryn Turner; Director of Collections Jeffrey H. King; Ethnobotanist and Historian Robert Estrada; Accountant Diane Happeny; and Director Emeritus Ken Zoll. Buckle says, “A critical factor is our large growing team of 700 volunteers.”
She also praised the leadership team from the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff for its continual support.
Buckle spent much of her early career in New York City, where she owned and coordinated galleries featuring Native American artwork. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. She later received a master of art business degree from Sotheby Institute of Art in New York.
She recently was named to the Mesa Verde Foundation board of directors in Colorado, which is an official philanthropic partner with the UNESCO World Heritage program. Buckle also is affiliated with the Tucson Museum of Art and serves as a guest curator and Native American representative.
The center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A Kid’s Adventure Room can be rented for special activities. Admission tickets can be purchased online; $10 for adults 18 to 64; $5 for those 65 and older. Those younger than 18, are veterans or active duty service members, Native American, or those who are North American Reciprocal Museum members are free.
“We are becoming a stellar place to learn and to grow in knowledge,” Buckle says. “Regional history and culture museums such as ours are the foundation for instilling pride in the past and opportunity for the future.”
More information is available online at www.verdevalleyarchaeology.org or by calling 928.567.0066.