I meant to post this a few weeks ago, but grad student that I am, life got away from me. So here you go, better late than never.
On February 22nd, I had the opportunity to visit the Tempe History Museum with my Rhetoric & Public Memory class at ASU. We had been studying memory sites and will be studying museums later in the semester so this was a fun chance to visit a museum and speak with the Dan Miller, the Exhibits Coordinator and Josh Roffler, the Curator of Collections, about how they put together exhibits and organize the collection. They shared with us the plans that were drafted for their recent renovation and discussed the overall message and themes of the museum. As Josh explained, "Exhibits are about experiences." Well, if you visit the Tempe History Museum, be prepared for an experience.
The main exhibition hall is divided into six main areas.
1. An introduction space that features a short video on the history of Tempe.
2. Living in the Desert, which features a timeline history as well as several cases and installations that teach about what it was like living in the desert from the time of the Native American's who lived in the area before white settlers arrived, through to contemporary times.
3. College Town, which describes the history of ASU, from it's time as the local normal school to it's current status as a major Research 1 university.
4. Building Our Community, which shows how the community of Tempe has grown and changed over the years.
5. Living Together, which celebrates the diversity of the population of Tempe.
6. A changing gallery for temporary special exhibits. At the time of my visit it was "The Finley Boys: Arizona's Royal Family of Rodeo.
Among these spaces there are also Exploration Stations in each themed area that offers a chance to learn more about the history through an interactive activity (such as making a custom historical postcard that you can email to yourself at home to share with others), a Learning Lounge where you can look through books or just relax, and Little Devil's Stadium, a protected space for small children to crawl around.
The best part is the Kid's Place, featuring a mini stage (complete with theatre curtains, theatre seats, and costumes on pegs backstage) toys and books for kids to play with, and a 1920s era truck that kids can climb behind the wheel of or load into the bed of the truck to hangout.
But wait, I kind of jumped the gun, the BEST best part? It's totally free! So if you go with young kids and they get bored after 5 mins, you can leave without feeling guilty about not getting your money's worth.
The whole place is very kid friendly and still interesting for adults. It's not huge, so an adult could probably go through it in about an hour, but if you take your kids they may beg to stay longer. I'm finding myself trying to find friends with kids that I can tag along with.
The museum is located at Rural and Southern in Tempe, though any Phoenix Valley resident would find it interesting as it also relates more generally to Arizona history.
And did I mention it's free? Don't miss out. For more information, visit their website here.
In the foyer looking into the exhibition hall.