Legal Reference

Arizona State Archives get new home

Check out this new place they store the state archive records. That is if they let me in with out a government photo ID. If they don't sue under the equal protection clause of the Arizona Constitution.


November 30, 2008 - 5:40PM

Arizona State Archives get new home

Michael Martinez, Cronkite News Service

Asked to show some of the more notable items in the Arizona State Archives, Jennifer Albin held up a rusty hatchet used in 1926 to commit one of the state's most notorious murders.

It might seem out of place amid the documents, maps and records dating back to territorial days, but this too tells Arizona's story, she said.

"The archives are very interesting and affect people's everyday lives," said Albin.

The hatchet tells the story of Granville Johnson, who killed his wife of a few months near Williams. His alibi fell apart when authorities found the bloody weapon in the woods with his name engraved on the handle.

Along with Arizona's Constitution and seemingly countless other items, the hatchet has a new home. The archives moved recently out of cramped space at the state Capitol into spacious, modern digs in the $29 million Polly Rosenbaum Archives and History Building at 19th Avenue and Madison Street in Phoenix.

The building, named after the longest-serving member of the Arizona Legislature, will be formally dedicated Jan. 15.

"The new building has 50 times more room than the old building and we are all very happy with the move," said Melanie Sturgeon, history and archives division director for the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records.

Albin said people frequently use the archives to prove they own land or to prove their citizenship after they leave the U.S.

The building houses a large collection of genealogy information, which brings many people to research their family history and ancestry.

Map librarian Julie Hoff said the new building features climate control that keeps the archives section at 55 degrees, which preserves documents longer.

"Previously I could only show the maps for three hours a day," Hoff said. "Now they are available all day during normal business hours."

A tour of the new building started in the reading room, which is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and features microfilm readers and wireless access for laptop users.

The microfilm readers make Arizona's largest collection of newspapers available to the public, and soon all of the collection's newspapers from 1880 to 1922 will be available online.

The heart of the archives lies behind locked doors and isn't open to the public. There are large stacks of books and documents storing newspapers from the 1800s to today, along with court dockets and old photos.

Hoff proudly showed off some of her favorite maps, including colorful bird's-eye views of Phoenix and Prescott from the 1890s.

Albin shared one of her favorite items: a comic from a 1948 edition of The Arizona Times of Phoenix. It shows two women gossiping, with one telling the other: "She's had terrible luck with both her husbands. The first one stopped coming around ... and the second one won't."

Sturgeon showed off a 1927 proclamation in which George W.P. Hunt, Arizona's first governor, serving the third of his four terms, declared George H. Kelly the state historian of Arizona.

Visitors who want to access the stacks must apply for a research card, which is good for one year and helps keep track of who is viewing the documents in case they are stolen. In the past, documents have been swiped and later turned up on eBay, Albin said.