The long-anticipated new museum bridging Chandler’s history with its future will open its doors in just days.
The Chandler Museum grand opening will take place starting at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 8 at 300 S. Chandler Village Drive. The existing museum has been closed while workers constructed a new 10,000- square-foot building just north of the McCullough-Price House, slightly south of West Frye Road and west of the Loop 101.
The modern, new 10,000-square-foot building will house 5,000 square feet of changing exhibit space that is a mixture of local exhibits museum staff produces, as well as five to six nationally traveling exhibits. The national exhibits will change about once a quarter so visitors always have something new to view.
Nearby, the 80-year-old McCullough-Price House, which is about 3,300 square feet, will feature tiny exhibits, mid-century modern furniture, the offices for museum staff and a research and archive area with old newspapers, photographs, yearbooks and maps the public can access.
A 10,000-square-foot courtyard and garden will create a “living room” type feel outside. The McCullough-Price House served as the city’s museum from 2012 to 2017.
While construction of the new museum was underway, the McCullough-Price House was revamped to now serve as administrative offices and the home of the new East Valley History & Research Center.
The new museum cost about $4.3 million and was paid for primarily through voter-approved bonds. Voters approved bond initiatives in 2004 and 2007 to fund the museum.
Chandler broke ground on the new museum in October of last year.
The 10,000-square-foot building, as well as the exterior courtyard and garden were designed by architects of the Weddle Gilmore Black Rock Studio and built by Danson Construction.
About 200 stainless steel fins make up “Infinite Shade,” the art created by artist Jeff Zischke that provides shade and lets sun in for museum visitors in the courtyard. LED lights bounce light off the metal fins of the shade artwork, according to museum administrator Jody Crago.
The structure will provide 50 percent shade during the hottest part of the year but allow sun to come through in the colder months, Crago said. Public and special events can be held in the courtyard.
“We hope that the public’s really happy with the facility they’re getting,” Crago said. “One of the big things is we really are trying to build exhibits that are about the community.
“We’re not just a history museum. What are the influences that have created this space? We hope they can see themselves in the community, look at issues (we’re) facing today. We talk about ourselves as a community museum. We want to be about Chandler specifically. We want to tell those stories that are insightful. We’re trying to be that 21st century museum that can raise issues.”
The new museum will kick off with the famous national traveling exhibition, “Awkward Family Photos,” when it opens Dec. 8. The show reveals imperfect family photos in vintage and funky frames.
More than 200 photos celebrating awkward moments with loved ones will be on display through Jan. 19.
Chandler Museum staff member Lizzie Olson will see herself in the “Awkward Family Photos” exhibit. Her fourth-grade class photo was used in the traveling exhibition.
“It’s so fun to look through old photos and reminisce with my family about life’s funny moments,” Olson said. “I wanted to submit a photo after laughing so hard, wondering ‘What was I thinking?’ My outfit and hairstyle seemed so normal then, but now we just look back and laugh about it.”
An exhibit of a more serious nature will also debut Dec. 8. “Gaman: Enduring Japanese American Internment at Gila River” will display photos, text, a yearbook, paper cranes, crates and other objects and videos.
The display will tell the tales of the more than 16,000 Japanese Americans who were forced from the West Coast to Gila River Internment Camp near Chandler during World War II because they looked like the enemies. That exhibit will be shown through April 19, 2020.
The Japanese internment camp exhibit is an expansion of a previous one, “Un-American: Engaging Our Community With the Story of Japanese Internment,” which earned the museum a Leadership in History Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s work will be the subject of an exhibit from Jan. 13 to March 17. “Frank Lloyd Wright: Architecture of the Interior” will explore the famous architect’s design of houses through 19 reproduction drawings, eight photographs and four photographic murals.
Every detail of the larger whole exhibition is organized by International Arts & Artists of Washington, D.C., in collaboration with The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation of Scottsdale.
Inside the new museum, visitors will find a gift shop with large light boxes on the walls in the entry area featuring different themes. When the museum initially opens, the boxes will have an ostrich motif.
A huge mural photo of Chandler’s downtown in 1913 will align one hallway, and it will be covered with 44 framed photos covering all of Chandler from 1912, the year the city was founded, through the present.
Another big mural will illustrate the Chandler Sports Hall of Fame and photos of inductees in hockey, basketball, football, rodeo and other sports will be up for viewing. Two large TV monitors will show videos of the Hall of Fame inductees, and balls and other artifacts from the honored athletes will be available to see in glass display cases.
An exhibit called “Bigger than Boxing: Muhammad Ali vs. Zora Folley” will reveal the time the two famous boxers faced off in the ring for the Heavyweight Championship of the World.
Folley of Chandler was an American heavyweight boxer praised for his defensive and punching abilities. The exhibit will highlight Folley and Ali’s fight in the ring at the crossroads of religion, race, sports and politics in the 1960s.
Visitors can also learn and explore culture in the educational room in the Chandler Museum; The Saguaro Room will host students for field trips, as well as family programs. Children and others will be able to sit outside in a sunken courtyard with Sonoran desert landscaping.
The new museum also greatly expands the amount of space in which photos, pottery, furniture, paintings, costumes and numerous other artifacts for exhibits can be kept.
Staff members now have enough collection storage space to double the size of their current collection, Crago said. Previously, items for future collections were kept off-site.
Excitement is building over the new museum.
“I think the Chandler museum has always evoked a deeper, more personal experience telling the story of Chandler through individuals,” Terri Kimble, president/CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce said. “The new building marries contemporary design with the intriguing stories of Chandler’s past. This space offers the opportunity to bring many stories to life from Chandler itself to individuals and experiences that have crossed Chandler’s path.”
Mary Ellen Crane, vice-president/secretary of the nonprofit Pardners of Tumbleweed Ranch, said she believes the new museum “will be a great place to learn about Chandler’s history both for visitors & residents.”
Taylor Wellman posted on the Chandler Museum Facebook page late last year.
“It’s already an amazing facility with great exhibits that will be expanding very soon!” Wellman said. “Very excited for the expansion!”