With its vast seas of new stucco homes and cookie-cutter strip malls, it may seem that the terms “history” and “East Valley” hardly belong in the same sentence.

But our roots go deep – literally as deep as the canals that native peoples scratched out of the rock-hard desert to water their crops long before Columbus was born. And you have to go back almost 150 years to find the beginnings of the settlements that now have merged into the colossus we call the East Valley.

That the region hasn’t forgotten its past is evinced by the museums that guard and explain its legacy. The museums offer a variety of special events, changing exhibits and auxiliary sites. Among them:

  • The Chandler Museum, a branch of the city’s Cultural Affairs Division. It operates Tumbleweed Ranch, 2250 S. McQueen Road; offers exhibits and museum headquarters at McCullough-Price House, 300 S. Chandler Village Drive; and has online archives at chandleraz.gov. Click on “visitors,” then “arts and culture.” 

  • The Gilbert Historical Museum, operating out of a 1913 school building at the south end of the Heritage District; gilberthistoricalmuseum.org.

  • The Mesa Historical Museum, 51 E. Main St., Mesa, is in transition from a historical campus in the Lehi neighborhood to a hoped-for downtown museum; valleyhistoryinc.com.

  • The Arizona Museum of Natural History, 53 N. Macdonald, Mesa, has exhibits ranging from prehistoric cultures to Arizona’s role in film history; arizonamuseumofnaturalhistory.org.

  • The Tempe History Museum, 809 E. Southern Ave., offers permanent and changing exhibits; tempe.gov; click on “city hall,” then “community services.”

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