The Arizona Capitol Museum Wants Your Help

Courtesy of the Arizona Capitol Museum | The Oasis Model, Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of an Arizona Capitol Complex

The Arizona Capitol Museum is looking for volunteers to join their team. Volunteers will help out with museum tours, welcoming visitors, providing directions to other government buildings and manning the museum store… at the same time, you’ll learn more about our state’s history and unique culture.

Sound like a gig you’d be down to do? Well, why not learn more about this special museum. Below, Jason Czerwinski, the museum’s volunteer manager talks about the museum’s exhibits, why this place is important to the state and why he really needs your help.

The Arizona Capitol Museum is quite large. I had no idea, in fact. What can visitors expect to take away from the museum?
Yes the Capitol Museum is pretty big: Four floors, 55,000 square feet, with over 20 big rooms that feature the story of our state’s government, and all the different ways our past intersects with life today.  Our volunteers enjoy talking to visitors about many different aspects of Arizona: Our culture, the government, Arizona myths and legends, as well as contemporary issues.  There are a lot of surprises in our history, and each volunteer has their own favorite niche, so no two visits are the same.

What are some popular exhibits?
The Capitol Museum has some exhibits that are perennial favorites, and new ones premiere on a regular basis.  There are special exhibits recreating the Territorial House chamber where the State Constitution was drafted, which lets us show how that document has evolved since 1912.  There are recreations of the first Governor and Secretary of State offices.  Many people come just to see the USS Arizona Silver Service, which is featured on the first floor, and they don’t know until arriving that we offer three more floors to take in.  It’s not usual for a person to spend over an hour touring our displays.  And did I mention? We’re free!

That Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit sounds fascinating… Tell me about it and when will it become available to the public?
The Oasis Model, Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of an Arizona Capitol Complex, opened to the public on June 14. (Museum hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and starting on September 8, Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

The model is on loan from the FLW Foundation, and we plan on having it here for at least a year.  The story behind the design is one of those ‘cultural cul-de-sacs’ that help the ACM talk about architecture and design, community opinion and the news-media, and of course the larger than life personality of Mr. Wright.  It shows how government really does affect our lives and community in ways we don’t notice.

When this exhibit opened, the lauded Arizona journalist Lloyd Clark, who interviewed Wright and covered politics, gave a presentation about the man and his vision of the State Capitol.  Clark is a heck of a storyteller, and can talk for hours about his time reporting from the Capitol and the characters he met over the years.  We’re hoping to add some of his tales to the exhibit in a video.

Why is this museum important to the state?
The Arizona Capitol Museum is important because we are the last territorial capitol, and the only state capitol Arizona has ever had.  Our institution specializes in teaching Arizona government and civics in the very building where those early ideals were cemented.  We’re also a one-of-a-kind space for discussing contemporary issues, putting them in context with our state history.  The ACM is a free museum, and the only institution capable of hosting the hundreds of school groups, local visitors, and national/international tourists who come each year to learn what makes Arizona unique.  Through an overlap of location and history, we are the only place that can do all of that.

Talk to me about the volunteer program? How can one go about volunteering?
Our volunteers love history and meeting people.  Anyone with those qualifications, plus a positive attitude, who can also reach our minimal physical requirements, is welcome to apply to join our team.  Volunteers help in several different areas: interpreting exhibits and aiding tours, welcoming visitors to the Capitol and providing direction to various government offices, as well as staffing the Museum Store.  All of these are key positions without which we couldn’t operate.  Some volunteers with the right technical background also help with exhibits and our collection of artifacts.  To start, you don’t have to have any specific education or background, just be interested in learning.  Volunteers usually commit to one-day per week and work for about four hours. I do my best to adapt the schedule to meet the needs of our contributors.  The training is provided here and it’s free, and even though we prefer to do it during our twice yearly training sessions, we can take new people on throughout the year.

Anyone who wants more information can call me at 602-926-3731, or email me through the Museum website.

Information: 1700 West Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85007;; 602-926-3620

—Kathy Ritchie

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Filed under Loco for Local, Make a Difference, Q&A

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