by Fred Veil, Executive Director, Sharlot Hall Museum
Ninety years ago, Sharlot M. Hall opened her museum in the “Old Governor’s Mansion.” Little did she realize that not only would her dream of preserving the heritage of Arizona live on, but that her idea would be embraced by future generations of Arizonans.
The museum that bears her name has grown from a simple log-built mansion to a 4-acre campus with 11 exhibit buildings, six of which are historic. These buildings chronicle the lifestyles of “beasts” and humans that inhabited what is now Arizona’s Central Highlands, from prehistoric times to the early 20th century, and moving forward in time.
One of the Museum’s more impressive exhibit buildings, the John and Helen Lawler Exhibit Center, is a key component of the museum and houses the Pre-History Wing. In its 9,000-plus square feet are world-class displays, videos and diorama providing a time-travel-experience for visitors.
From its eye-catching display of a 9,000-year-old skull found nearby and the bas relief wall of “beasts” – where visitors walk in the armpit of a mastodon – to the spectacular depiction of prehistoric hunter-gatherers in our area – these serve as a backdrop for the museum’s excellent fossil collection and many examples of material from the indigenous peoples who inhabited Arizona’s Central Plateau.
The completing backdrop of the east wing Pre-History arena is the cultural impact of the Native Americans from the Clovis people to the Prescott Culture – a span of several millennia to about 1350 CE – that includes the “ancient ones” and the Hohokam influences on the peoples of the West Central Highlands.
Explorers, mountain men, miners, merchants, military men, ranchers, and others will be added to create a rich tapestry of the region’s history with an emphasis on Arizona’s territorial days and into the post-statehood period of the 20th century.
Exhibit expansion is limited, however, by space and funding. The completion of the proposed new Education Center at the southeast corner of the museum campus will allow relocation of the Lawler’s theater and gallery, freeing the remaining space for planned exhibits.
The two-story Education Center will include classrooms, a state-of-the-art multi-media auditorium, education offices, and presentation space currently housed in the Lawler.
Efforts continue to complete funding for the Education Center construction and for exhibit expansion in the Lawler. For information on how you can help with paving the way to our future for either of these buildings, call the museum at (928) 445-3122 and ask for me, Fred Veil.