The bad word from city officials just about broke the hearts of Bobbie O'Haver and others affiliated with downtown's Arizona Museum: If the Phoenix City Council goes along with a staff recommendation at its October 30 meeting, the museum likely will be stuck in its high-crime neighborhood until at least the mid-Nineties. That's far longer than anyone connected with the venerable museum had anticipated. City voters in April 1988 approved a $3.5 million bond measure for a new building at Sixth Street and Monroe, just west of Heritage Square. The little-noticed time machine in adobe has been at Tenth Avenue and Van Buren since 1927. The charming, but cramped, building has outlived its usefulness as a museum--most of its artifacts are in storage--and officials there have been thrilled about moving.
The new building, to be redubbed the Phoenix Museum of History, was to open in 1993. But the city is pleading poverty, so the museum and many other projects are about to be delayed.
Other projects slated for delay include police computers, fire stations, a branch library, an aquatics facility and several historic preservation projects. It's worth noting, however, that construction of Deck Park's "Irish Farmhouse" is to remain on schedule.
"I'm very confused about the priorities that this city has about its cultural possibilities," says Cindy Myers, the museum's new executive director. "It's embarrassing. The city wants to keep the Irish Farmhouse on track, but when it comes to a museum about its own history, it's `You people will have to wait your turn.' We have so much history in here, Phoenix history, but unless we can change their minds, almost no one will get to see it for years to come."
In the meantime, the museum's current location--next to University Park, a refuge for homeless, drunks and druggies--is becoming more sinister by the minute, especially since the state shut down the nearby Club 902 a few weeks ago.
Last year, about 7,500 people--mostly tourists--found their way past barbed wire fences and two retired mining locomotives to browse among the free museum's quirky mix of early Arizona and Phoenix artifacts. MD120 Col 1, Depth P54.02 I9.03 "Ever since that bar closed, we have all these young, mean, strung-out-looking guys just hovering around us," says O'Haver, the museum's former deputy director and still a volunteer worker. "Our attendance has dropped considerably. People say they're scared to come here and they're scared to bring their school groups. I don't blame them. It's a mess.