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Theatrical Centennial event celebrates Arizona's history

Special Collections wants students to fall in love with Arizona through a new exhibit, “Becoming Arizona: The Valentine State.”

The exhibit, which opened last August, was developed to commemorate Arizona’s journey to becoming the 48th state in 1912. Arizona will celebrate its centennial this Tuesday.

“I hope that people will see what the path towards statehood was like and that there were many different cultures and communities in Arizona prior to 1912, and that they all contribute to what our state has become,” said Chrystal Carpenter, an assistant librarian in Special Collections who helped put together the exhibit.

The exhibit presents documents and artifacts dating back to the 16th century during Spanish missions in the Southwest, as well as maps that showcase the Gadsden Purchase and when Arizona was a territory. It also provides contemporary pieces regarding Arizona, like books written about the state in the 1990s. A large majority of the exhibit’s pieces are from Special Collections, with the exception of a few artifacts donated by the Arizona History Museum for the project.

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The artifacts include Wyatt Earp’s wedding ring from his third marriage to Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp and Geronimo’s tinder bag. Earp was made famous in 1881 after participating in a 30-second gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Ariz., that left three cowboys dead. Geronimo is known for being a leader of the Apaches in the 1800s. Carpenter said as the centennial approaches, more people are showing an interest in these artifacts and want to know the history behind them.

“As we are getting closer to the centennial, there has become more awareness to this exhibit which is great,” Carpenter said. “We decided to be a worthwhile endeavor to actually show the buildup to statehood. We wanted to make sure that we highlighted the many different histories here before it became Arizona.”

The exhibit also provides documentation about what Arizona was like when it was a territory during the Civil and Indian Wars. In addition to the exhibit, Special Collections is also hosting a lecture series this school year that discusses Arizona’s history. The series, which began last November, is a three-part lecture given by UA professors and historians.

“Part of our concept is that our exhibits document the early histories of Arizona and we wanted to have a lecture series that talked about Arizona today, but looked back historically as well so we could tie the past and the future together,” Carpenter said.

The second part of the series will be held on Tuesday in the Special Collections’ reading room at 7 p.m. The lecture titled, “The Sleeping Giant vs. the Politics of Fear: Arizona’s Hispanic Society in the Twenty-First Century” will be given by UA anthropology professor Tom Sheridan and will talk about the expansion of the Hispanic population and how that influences culture and politics in Arizona.

The exhibit is scheduled to run until May 30.


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