Collections from Arizona National Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in Arizona. We invite you to explore collections from Canyon De Chelly National Monument, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Chiricahua National Monument, Coronado National Memorial, Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Grand Canyon National Park, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Navajo National Monument, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, Pipe Spring National Monument, Saguaro National Park, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Tonto National Monument, Tumacacori National Historical Parkl, Tuzigoot National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument, Western Archeological and Conservation Center, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and Wupatki National Monument. 

The Ancestral Sonoran Desert People used large jars, called ollas (Spanish for jar), to store water and dried foodstuff.This large jar was discovered in 1906, and was left in situ because archeologists were afraid they would damage it by removing it. The olla was successfully excavated sometime between 1927 and 1938, when it is first documented in museum collections.
It is rare to find a complete example of an olla this size in the archeological record. Without the assistance of a potter’s wheel, this olla was made entirely by hand. The red color comes from the mineral content of the clay and the black marks near the top are the result of the firing process.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, CAGR 339

This metal license plate was used by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers stationed at Chiricahua National Monument from 1933-1939. The CCC was one of many work programs created during the Great Depression. At Chiricahua National Monument the men of Camp NM-2-A, Company 828 built the majority of visitor and staff facilities in use today. These facilities include 12 miles of hiking trails, the park campground, the fire lookout, the Massai Point orientation station, the headquarters and museum, the maintenance yard, and much of the staff housing.

Chiricahua National Monument, CHIR 20009

This stone projectile point was used by prehistoric hunters living within the modern boundary of Coronado National Memorial. This projectile point style was first found by archeologists in Gypsum Cave, Nevada, but is common throughout the desert Southwest. Gypsum points represent what archeologists call the Middle Archaic (5500-3500 BP), a time before ceramic technology and domestic agriculture. Recent archeological studies have discovered evidence suggesting that areas within the memorial were very popular hunting and food gathering locations for generations of Middle Archaic people.

Coronado National Memorial, CORO 1706

These false teeth were owned by Captain Cyrus Roberts while serving at Fort Bowie. At that time, Fort Bowie was a remote frontier fort that afforded little in modern comforts and no dental facilities. In fact, the nearest dentist was located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over 350 miles away. According to Roberts' son, a rat stole the false teeth from the captain's bedside and they were never recovered. National Park Service employees found the teeth during historic preservation work nearly 100 years later.

Fort Bowie National Historic Site, FOBO 2516

The Kolb brothers, Emery and Ellsworth, came to the Grand Canyon long before it was designated a national park in 1919. In 1903, they built a home and photography studio right on the edge of the great chasm and made a living selling photos of mule riders and scenic vistas to visitors.

Known for their fearlessness when it came to procuring good photos, the Kolbs explored remote parts of Grand Canyon whenever business was slow enough to give them a break from the studio, lugging a bulky 8"xlO" camera and glass plates with them. They became known as the 'daring photographers of the Grand Canyon'.

In 1911, with little boating experience, the Kolbs decided to retrace the 1869 expedition of famed explorer John Wesley Powell down the Green and Colorado rivers. They left Green River, Wyoming on September 8 in two wooden boats built for the journey using plans from an earlier expedition. The flat-bottomed, 16' crafts had airtight compartments at each end and weighed 1200 lbs. when loaded with provisions, camp necessities, and photographic equipment. Emery's boat was named 'Edith' after his 4-year old daughter. By journey's end, in Needles, California on January 18, 1912, they had traversed 1200 miles and were the eighth recorded expedition to run the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. Using a hand-cranked motion picture camera, they produced a movie that was shown daily in their studio on the South Rim for over 60 years, the longest run of any motion picture anywhere. The film was also shown at lectures across the country, helping to popularize the Grand Canyon as a wondrous destination.

Though the Grand Canyon is a geologic wonder carved by time and erosion, artifacts like the 'Edith' symbolize the adventurous and entrepreneurial spirits that have been inspired by the Grand Canyon and other national parks.

Grand Canyon National Park, GRCA 13725

Hubbell Trading Post is reminiscent of old time trading days on Navajoland when a journey to the trading post was an adventure in itself. Whether by foot, horse, or wagon, visits to the store took several days. At the post, there was the excitement of renewing friendships, making new acquaintances, and finally making the trade and receiving goods for home, family, and farm. The historic hand-built post continues to serve the local community.


The squeaky door announced another customer's arrival in the Bull Pen. A wood stove at the center of the store kept the place warm during winter, and blakets were worn before coats became the fashion. The center was surrounded by high wide wooden counters with enough space for several customers to wait their turn while sharing stories about families, livestock, fields, harvest, planting, hunting, and ceremonies.A wood stove for those cold winter days, and a blanket kept everyone warm before coats became the fashion. The trader, between the counter and shelves that were jam packed with sundries, tools, enamel ware, cast iron pans, utensils, clothing, tack, shoes, lanterns, wagon grease, branding irons, paint, horse collars, drugstore items, candy, and toys, collected the goods the customer selected.

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, HUTR 3457

This cotton handbag was used by prehistoric Native Americans living at the Montezuma Castle cliff dwelling. It was created by loom weaving black and white threads into a complex geometric design. The textile was folded in half and stitched along one side to create a handbag.

Montezuma Castle National Monument, MOCA 123

This sandal was excavated in the 1930s from Room 79 of Keet Seel Pueblo, the largest pre-contact cliff dwelling in Arizona. It was made from the leaves of a yucca plant and constructed using a plaiting technique. The structure was manipulated to mold the toe and heel sections into a foot shape and the heel has been built up using supplementary braiding. Remains of a toe loop are faintly visible, as are possible strap remnants at the back of the sandal. This mostly intact sandal was chosen to represent Navajo National Monument because of the exceptional preservation organic pre-contact items were afforded by the dry cave sites from this NPS unit. Close to one hundred pre-contact sandals have been recovered from Navajo National Monument.

Navajo National Monument, NAVA 6491

This pearl handled revolver was found by a park employee in 1998 near Quitobaquito Spring. No one knows who the original owner was or how it came to be in the location it was found. It is a top break revolver, either a .32 or .38 caliber and probably made by Smith and Wesson with aftermarket mother-of-pearl grips. Quitobaquito Spring is one of the oldest continuously used places within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, with evidences of human activity dating 12,000-16,000 years BP. In the harsh environment of of the Sonoran Desert, the dependability, quality, and quantity of water at Quitobaquito Springs made the location ideal for humans and their animals. A large number of plant and wildlife species also call the spring home. These are all important commodities that made survival possible and a firearm would have been a useful tool, both for protection and securing a meal.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, ORPI 14486

The lands comprising Petrified Forest National Park have been occupied for at least 13,000 years, and this projectile point of petrified wood represents that occupation and the use of the unique natural resources of the forest. Over 1000 recorded archeological sites preserve evidence of populations ranging from hunter-gatherers of the Paleoindian period, to pueblo-dwelling farmers in the 1300s, and historic period Navajo sheepherders. People were drawn to the area's abundant and varied natural resources, one of which is petrified wood of exceptional quality. This lovely material, well-suited for making stone tools, is ubiquitous among archaeological assemblages across all time periods in the park. This object is a dart point manufactured by people living in the park during a remarkable period of change between 1500 CE and 450 CE. During this time, families began to live together in larger groups than ever before, forming the park's first villages among huge sand dunes and on flat mesa tops.

Petrified Forest National Park, PEFO 2568

Winsor Castle was constructed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the direction of Church President Brigham Young in 1870. Its fortifications were for protection of the Mormon frontier from Navajo raids in the 1860s as well as Young's speculation about potential conflict with the US government. It served as a Church tithing ranch, and wayfaring station related to Mormon enterprise and expansion in the Intermountain West through the 1880s. Named for its first church ranch superintendent, Anson P. Winsor, it became the headquarters of thriving private ranching ventures in the 1890s.

Pipe Spring National Monument

To celebrate the establishment of Saguaro National Monument in 1933 (designated a National Park in 1994), the Tucson Chamber of Commerce issued this rare park brochure with a cover of thin copper metal. The brochure is the first time the city of Tucson, Arizona, publically embraced and promoted the newly formed monument, marking the beginning of many years of close cooperation between the park and the city. The brochure cover is made from copper, for which the state is famous, and depicts a scene of the Sonoran Desert with many Saguaro cacti, for which the monument was named.

Saguaro National Park, SAGU 8821

Basalt cobble with corn impressions

The eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano occurred between 1040 and 1100 CE, and based on tribal oral history was witnessed by pre-contact people at the time. Collected in 1984 at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, this corn rock is believed to be the result of pre-contact people deliberately placing corn at or near the base of an erupting hornito, a spattering vent that forms above lava flows. In theory, as volcanic spatter erupted from the hornito or vent, it covered the corn, cooling to create a corn mold. Dozens more corn rocks have since been found in the walls of habitation structures at site NA860 about four kilometers west of Sunset Crater Volcano.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, SUCR 1917

Tonto Polychromes, like this magnificent jar or olla found within Tonto National Monument, were produced in the Tonto Basin in Arizona and traded all over the prehistoric Southwest. Tonto Polychrome is one of three main types of the Salado Polychromes (or Roosevelt Redwares) that are diagnostic of the Salado Culture. These polychromes were some of the most widely traded pottery types.

Tonto National Monument, TONT 1275

This statue is one of nine surviving santos (saints) that once stood in the church of the Spanish colonial mission San José de Tumacácori. The depiction of Jesus as “Jesús Nazareno," known in English as the "Man of Sorrows" or the "Suffering Savior," shows Christ carrying the cross on which he will be crucified. The cross is missing from this statue. He has been scourged, and wears a crown of thorns made of braided cord and - appropriate to this desert community - cactus spines. The statue is designed to be clothed in a scarlet or purple robe.

The O'odham village of Tumacácori first became a Spanish mission with the arrival of Jesuit priest Eusebio Franciso Kino in 1691. Around the year 1800 the community began to build the adobe church protected by the park today, in which these santos stood. Relentless pressure from the Apaches, along with hardships brought on by the US - Mexican War and an unusually heavy snow in December of 1848, caused the mission residents to choose to leave their homes. According to O'odham oral history, women of the village carried the santos, including Jesús Nazareno, on their backs in their kiahats (burden baskets) the forty miles north to their new home at the sister mission of San Xavier del Bac. Three of those santos remain in the sanctuary of the San Xavier church, revered and cared for by the O'odham residents of that community to this day. Six of the santos have returned home, and are now in the Tumacácori National Historical Park museum.

Tumacácori National Historical Park, TUMA 6463

This ceramic bowl was used by prehistoric Native Americans living at the Tuzigoot Pueblo in Tuzigoot National Monument. Ceramic vessels with this type of design were first found and described by archeologists during the excavation of Tuzigoot Pueblo in 1933-34. As a result, this type is now referred to as Tuzigoot White-on-red.

Tuzigoot National Monument, TUZI 1110

This nearly intact loin cloth, also known as a breech cloth or breech clout, illustrates both the artistry and skill of the indigenous people who lived around Walnut Canyon, as well as the excellent preservation of archeological material. This loin cloth is one out of about a dozen known examples of this unique form of pre-contact weaving from the southwestern United States. It was found in a dry cave site during a 1932 excavation by Museum of Northern Arizona archeologists. The remaining portions of this loin cloth are the front section and a remnant of a sash. The front section is looped upon itself to allow for the sash to pass through, and the weaving then narrows to a thin band that passes through the legs and up to catch the sash at the tail end. What makes this weaving so unique, even though it is plain woven, is that the shaping and joining of the loop at the front was done entirely on the loom. The narrowing of the textile on the loom was accomplished by strategically reducing warps and wrapping them into the selvedge. Design of this textile took forethought and skill to make without utilizing stitches. Also, by not using stitching to join and shape the loin cloth, the final product was much stronger, which likely contributed to its preservation. Light netting, a former conservation treatment, was stitched onto the back of the textile to stabilize fragile cloth fragments while the textile was on exhibit.

Walnut Canyon National Monument, WACA 1079

The headquarters for the Southwestern National Monuments (SWNM) was located at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument (CAGR), Arizona between 1923 and 1942. Among other duties, staff for both SWNM and CAGR provided early influence and assistance in the development of NPS museum exhibits and practices throughout the Southwest. The SWNM collections eventually came to reside at the Western Archeological and Conservation Center (WACC) in Tucson, Arizona, where the lntermountain Region Museum Services Program continues to preserve the legacy of the SWNM and numerous park units through the curation and conservation of museum, archives, and library collections.


Featured in the photograph: Frank "Boss" Pinkley, Hurst Julian, Hilding Palmer, Frank Fish, Martin Evanstad, and Robert Rose.

Western Archeological and Conservation Center, WACC 21546

Formerly used on Lake Mead between 1935 and 1960.

After the completion of the Hoover Dam, the waters of Lake Mead rose rapidly, obscuring natural hazards beneath the newly formed lake. Although early explorers had mapped the topography of the area prior to the construction of the dam, fluctuating water levels, submerged rocks, and jagged canyon walls made night time navigation a challenge. Kerosene lanterns were used for nighttime travel on Lake Mead and the Colorado River to detect hazards and to signal other boats. These versatile navigational aids could be hung from the front of the boat, placed on a flat surface, or held by hand.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, LAKE 22387

This basket was discovered during a comprehensive archeological survey of Wupatki National Monument in 1985. It was found adhered to a large pack rat midden which had to be removed by conservators. Pack rat urine caused permanent staining. The basket is unusual because of its age, large size, and excellent condition. Four dyed diamond motifs are still highly visible on the interior and faintly visible on the exterior. The diamond shapes average in size at 3.5 by 2.5 inches. The basket is made up of flexible elements coiled around a :rod and bundle: foundation, which forms the solid structure. It was most likely used for storage.

Wupatki National Monument, WUPA 2432

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from:
Canyon De Chelly National Monument, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Chiricahua National Monument, Coronado National Memorial, Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Grand Canyon National Park, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Navajo National Monument, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, Pipe Spring National Monument, Saguaro National Park, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Tonto National Monument, Tumacacori National Historical Parkl, Tuzigoot National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument, Western Archeological and Conservation Center, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and Wupatki National Monument.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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