The Arizona State Museum is the largest museum in the American southwest and is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. Established in 1893 by Arizona’s first governor, the Arizona State Museum is located on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson and works with the university in research and educational programs. The museum grants archaeological permits and works with the state to enforce its laws regarding antiquities, including preserving and documenting any finds. As an invaluable resource for the preservation and research into native cultures, paleontology, and anthropology, the Arizona State Museum plays a vital role in educating the public about southwestern U.S. and northern Mexican culture.
Owing to the fact that southwestern culture and history predates recorded history, many of the collections housed in the museum are from excavations conducted by museum or university researchers. Excavated baskets, pottery, and waste make up a small part of the materials collected and preserved. The museum also houses donated objects from current cultures. Many of the archival materials from the nation’s leading anthropologists are held by the museum. As an affiliate of the Smithsonian, the association gives the museum a wider audience and access to greater resources, increasing the capabilities of the museum to carry out its mission to preserve, research, and educate.
Some of the largest and most prominent collections of southwestern artifacts in the world are located at the Arizona State Museum. The museum holds more than 25,000 pieces of basketry and woven pieces from many native cultures. About 20,000 pieces of Indian pottery are held and documented by the museum. The museum is the largest state-run archaeological repository in the U.S., processing materials for federal and tribal government agencies.
The museum’s location on the campus of the University of Arizona gives it unique partnership opportunities with the educational institution. University and museum researchers are able to collaborate on research projects and share resources. The museum also operates an internship program for university students. Together, they are able to gain greater insight into the development of prehistoric peoples, the effects of interfacing with other cultures, and how these cultures interacted with and were affected by their environment.
There are many educational outreach programs in place for the museum to share information with students and the general public. Interactive, hands-on displays are meant to engage students and broaden their experience with history. Throughout the year, the Arizona State Museum hosts art fairs, lectures, and workshops.