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By Jennifer M. Fitzenberger
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 29, 1997

Regents approve money, growth for state museum

FLAGSTAFF - The Arizona State Museum, plagued by safety violations and a deteriorating collection, received a budget increase and preliminary expansion approval Thursday from the Arizona Board of Regents.

At the same time, some regents said the Legislature should take more responsibility for the state-owned museum.

"I'm not questioning the value of the museum," said Regent Kurt Davis, who told the board that the museum is a state obligation, "but in some ways it is unfair that we have to keep it up."

The museum received a funding increase - from $819,000 to $1.48 million - from the board to go ahead with Life Safety Improvements mandated by the State Fire Marshal.

These improvements include renovating fire alarms, emergency lighting, emergency exits and hazardous material exhaust systems.

The project will begin mid-October and end in April, said Hartman Lomawaima, interim director of the museum.

The museum's latest plan for expansion received conceptual approval from the board.

"All we're doing is positioning ourselves to move forward," said Michael Cusanovich, University of Arizona's vice president for research.

The first phase, will renovate portions of the existing building and construct a three-floor underground facility to the east of it.

Construction would begin in two or three years, Lowawaima said.

The addition will provide an environmentally-controlled artifact collection storage space and new conservation and preservation laboratories.

"There are a number of artifacts deteriorating at a rapid rate," said Regent Judy Gignac, who agreed the state should take another look at the museum. "Over time future generations will resent the fact that we have not taken better care of it."

The museum, which is a state depository for artifacts, has been operated by the UA since 1905, although it is owned by the state, Cusanovich said.

He said the university does not receive much state funding, and must raise $11.5 million through fund-raising and donations to supplement the $24.5 million project.

UA has requested $13 million from the state in fiscal year 1999 general fund moneys.

"Since 1989 the museum has collected more artifacts, focuses more on public programs and has gone through 8 years of inflation," said Robert Smith, facilities design and construction director. "It (Life Safety Improvements) would take care of current needs."

In 1989 the board gave the project its first conceptual approval, then approving a total project budget of $9.2 million.

"Most of the items (for renovation) in 1989 are still on the list," Cusanovich said. "For the most part prices have changed."

He said the renovations will be done without destroying the structure of the 72-year-old building.

"It is our culture - our heritage that is presented there," he said, referring to 540,000-item artifact collection.

The collection continues to grow in size, particularly in response to the museum's work with Native American graves and ceremonial objects.

The museum, before the construction of UA's Main Library in the mid-1970s, used to be the university library.

"By the end of it, we will have protected what we needed all along," Lomawaima said.

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