As they enter the massive brick building, visitors pass the Watercarrier, a curved bronze statue that lends a first glimpse at a staggering collection of ancient and modern Native American works. Established in 1893, the Arizona State Museum celebrates and records Southwest Indian cultural history with more than 3 million objects, including a collection electrified with more than 25,000 pieces of woven basketry, more than 300,000 catalogued archaeological artifacts, 500,000 photographic negatives and original prints, 90,000 volumes of rare titles, 6,000 maps, 1,500 feet of archival documents, and more than 1,000 sound recordings. The collection forays out onto the museum floor in exhibitions such as Ancient Architecture of the Southwest, where striking photographs frame some of the crumbling archaeological ruins of 1,000-year-old cliff dwellings set against a rugged desert landscape while tastefully photoshopping out the ancient satellite dishes. The Pottery Project spans 2,000 years of Native ceramics with more than 20,000 whole pieces and a lab for hands-on pottery testing. Using artifacts, life-size dioramas, and film, Paths of Life explores the history and contemporary lifeways of ten Native cultures, including those of the Yaqui, O?odham, Apache, Navajo, and Hopi.
Museum staff further engage visitors in events that range from talks with museum curators and Native artisans to learning expeditions, which invite guests to tag along with museum and university archaeologists to survey nearby sites, immersing them in the scientific dig experience nearly as effectively as watching Indiana Jones with your nose to the screen. Educational outreach for public-school and university students immerses them in camps and workshops. At the Native Goods museum store, visitors browse a stock of books alongside basketry, jewelry, carvings, and textiles crafted by artists from Yaqui, Hopi, and other nations.
A diverse array of evocative and provocative pieces adorn the hallowed halls at the Tucson Museum of Art, which has served up a sensory feast to art-hungry hominids for more than 85 years. Armed with a year-long membership, budding art archivists can light their Blackberry torches to explore the museum's cavernous archives of current and permanent exhibitions, eventually discovering the wormhole that thrusts them forward to upcoming exhibitions. More than 1,900 works representing approximately 2,000 years of pre-Columbian art populate the Art of Latin America collection, including some galleries hosted in the historic Stevens/Duffield House, and the Art of the American West collection showcases expressions of the regional landscape and cultures. Perched atop the former Presidio of San Agustín del Tucson, the museum complex includes access to five restored historic homes donned in distinct styles that span centuries of architecture, décor, and La-Z-Boy upholstery.
Showcasing the works of a wide range of local and international artists, Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson presents visitors with a well-curated visual cross-section of the modern-art world. The museum's Art Now! lecture series covers a wide range of topics on art and culture spanning from 1960 to 1980. Attendees absorb the insights of lecturer Dr. Paul Ivey and mix and mingle with fellow art lovers while munching snacks, sipping wine, and enjoying one-night-only permission to lick the paintings.