Burning Man participants walk through dust at the annual Burning Man event on the Black Rock Desert of Gerlach, Nev., on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. Organizers call Burning Man the largest outdoor arts festival in North America, with its drum circles, decorated art cars, guerrilla theatrics and colorful theme camps.
The $48,962 the Arizona State Museum received recently from the National Endowment for the Humanities won’t buy much, but it could go far.
The museum, repository for the state’s archaeological and cultural treasures, will use the money to plan for preservation of its photographic collection, as it recently did with its fiber and ceramic treasures.
It can be a long process. The new pottery vault required $2.4 million in grants and contributions. It took seven years to catalog and conserve the pots, and to build 3,200 square feet of climate-controlled vault and display space.
The museum’s collection of textiles, from baskets to sandals, is walking a similar path.
They are now ensconced in climate-controlled comfort. An exterior exhibition space has yet to be built.
The museum’s photographs, meanwhile, are stored as best they can be in museum-quality sleeves and boxes, but in conditions that speed their gradual deterioration.
The 500,000-plus collection of prints, negatives, slides and film dates to the early 1900s, with some even earlier than that, and spans photo technology from glass plates to digital, said Janelle Weakly, curator of the museum’s photo collections.
The films and stills document the digs that produced the museum’s archaeological finds and the making of its ethnological treasures.
The collection includes glass “lantern slides” used in lectures by some of the museum’s famous archaeologists and anthropologists, such as Emil Haury and Byron Cummings.
Weakly even has a “ballopticon” used to project the images, some of them hand-colored.
The most fragile pieces of the image collection were moved to the only room available to researchers in the pottery vault.
The grant will allow museum conservators to convene a team of architects, facilities managers and image-preservation specialists to plan for a new climate-controlled facility.
Teresa Moreno, the museum’s associate conservator, said the planning grant could lure additional money from the National Endowment, and further fundraising would be necessary to match it.
Humidity is the biggest threat to the collection, said Weakly. It ranges from 19 percent or so in winter to the 74.2 percent recorded on a muggy morning this week.
The building’s air handlers “belong in a museum,” joked Moreno.
“It’s an actual miracle that some of this technology that dates back to the 1920s still works,” said Patrick Lyons, the museum’s director.
The museum, designed by noted Tucson architect Roy Place, was completed in 1926 for use as the University of Arizona library.
It’s a great building but it was designed for a very specific purpose — to house the university’s book collection in a central stack of metal shelves, five stories high, that also serves as structural support for the building.
A master plan for complete renovation, devised in 2000, had a $60 million price tag.
That’s not happening any time soon, so the museum is bringing its facilities up to contemporary snuff in small steps — pots, textiles and now the plan to consolidate an office and two storerooms into a single repository for its photographic images.
Lyons is also making a separate push to remodel the lobby.
He said the acoustics are bad for tour groups, the lighting is not directed toward the exhibits and the exhibits themselves need updating.
His director’s council, the museum’s fundraising arm, has pledged money for planning and an anonymous donor has promised a substantial gift toward that project.
When all that is accomplished, said Lyons, the museum wants to replace its major exhibit, “Paths of Life,” with one that will tell the story of human habitation in the Southwest and how that story is uncovered by archaeologists and anthropologists.
Years of planning have already gone into that exhibit, originally slated for a new exhibition space at the city of Tucson’s Rio Nuevo redevelopment site.
Consultation with consultants and tribal representatives have enriched that story, said Lyons, but “it’s a different level of fundraising. We’ve never been in that territory.”
He wants to finish the other projects before trying to raise $6-to-$8 million for the new exhibit.
Meanwhile, he’s working with the university to confront some “deferred maintenance” on the historic building.
“The university has been a really good partner. They’ve kicked in air handlers, all sorts of other improvements along the way, whenever they can afford to do it, but the building still has a lot of challenges.”
Lyons said he’s amazed each change of season when the UA’s facilities team manages to coax the building’s heating and cooling back into operation, and he wasn’t all that surprised when the three-story-high, arched windows that are the building’s architectural signature began leaking in recent rains.
This car was on the losing end of a tumbling Saguaro cactus near Tucson on Jan. 22, 1962. It's not known the circumstances of the incident, however there were high winds that day that caused damage elsewhere around Tucson. Coincidentally, a Salpointe High School football player was paralyzed the day before, on Jan. 21, when a Saguaro fell on him when he and a friend were trying to cut it down with a machete.
Tucson freelance photographer Will Seberger died on Aug. 17 in Tucson. He was 33 years old. Will was a University of Arizona graduate who became a ubiquitous presence at major news and sports events in Southern Arizona and Phoenix. His work was featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time, Newsweek, Mother Jones and Sports Illustrated.
Will worked for the Arizona Daily Star in 2006-07, as he was establishing himself as a working freelance photojournalist. (Click the photo above for a gallery of his work for the Daily Star.)
Tucson photographer Gary Auerbach will have a solo exhibition covering 30 years of work at the Rancho Linda Vista Gallery in Oracle. Opening reception is 1 – 5pm, Sunday, Sept. 7. Exhibit runs Sept. 1 – 30.
Subjects include some of the last photographs taken on the sound stage and sets at Old Tucson before many of the original buildings at the historic movie studio burned in a massive fire in 1995.
The images showcase a variety of printing methods from 8x10 and 11x14 large format negatives. Auerbach says they include platinum/palladium, Cibachrome, cyanotype, gum bichromate and even stereoscopic platinum among others.
"Who goes there" was the motto of the 684th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron manning the Mt. Lemmon Air Force Station in 1957. The installation, at 9,150-feet, was said to be the world's highest radar installation. Along with dozens of other similar stations, it watched for enemy Soviet aircraft approaching the U.S. before the advent of satellite surveillance.
Nearly 250 officers staffed the 25-acre base, which featured a barracks with a "modern, electrically equipped kitchen," according to a Tucson Citizen story in 1957.
For pictures of the base in 1957, go to tucson.com/retrotucson
Virginia Woodard's first day of teaching first grade at TUSD's Mission View Elementary School in 1960 was no different than a new teacher in 2014. "I tossed and turned all night thinking about it, and was too nervious to eat any breakfast," she said in an interview published in the Tucson Citizen on Sept. 2, 1960. The report wrote "she almost decided to turn back after getting within a block of the school."
But she made it through the day despite running out of planned activities, getting more students than desks and managing the mental fatigue of dozens of little people.
See photos of Virginia Woodard's first day of teaching in 1960 at tucson.com/retrotucson.