Black Canyon City Museum Provides Insight into Mining History | arts and culture
Arizona is full of history, and spaces like the Black Canyon Mining and Mineral Museum keep it alive.
Housed in a plaza in historic downtown Black Canyon City, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The museum’s mission is to preserve the history of mining and minerals in the Bradshaw Mountains, including mining operations at the Maggie, Kay Copper and Tip Top mines.
The museum has a collection of photos of Arizona mines, rocks and minerals, 19th century mining tools and maps dating back to 1836.
Visitors can discover saber-toothed tiger and woolly mammoth fossils and Native American antiquities found in the area, as well as a new meteorite exhibit.
“I have always been involved in history,” said Michael Sandford, director and founder of the museum. “I helped start the Black Canyon Historical Society. We had a parting of the ways, so I just decided I wanted a museum, so I’m going to do it.
During the day, Sandford works in the medical field, but he indulges in history by writing books and newspaper articles about the history of Black Canyon City.
Starting and running a museum was a natural progression for him. Members of his family and the community, as well as a three-person board of directors, assist him.
Sandford was a member and worked for a year at the Sharlot Hall Museum, an experience he passed on to the Black Canyon Mining Museum.
“I learned about preservation and the importance of preserving the past, the history,” he said.
“When it’s gone, it’s gone. But if you can collect something like this here. This is a lighthouse from the 1890s. We were born in the age of electricity. What were people doing before this happened? »
One of the centerpieces of the museum is an 1896 mining map, which Sandford kept for years with the goal of one day having a museum.
“When I took it to the state archives to have it authenticated, they asked me if I wanted to donate it to the state. When I asked why, they didn’t have any in their collection. I told them to wait five years, and I would see about that,” Sandford said.
Sandford said he was particularly interested in how mines were built and operated in the area.
“One of the things that interests me is that I want to know what kind of tools they used. That’s why I collect a lot of these old mining tools that are now obsolete,” Sandford said.
There were a variety of mines built in the Bradshaw Mountains.
“Some mines are open pits. They just scrape dirt off the surface. Others have tunnels and shafts,” Sandford said.
Opened in February 2020, the nonprofit museum relies on sales from the gift shop for its operating budget. It temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic but reopened at the end of the year.
Sharing the museum’s mission has been difficult, as attendance has fluctuated. The space is open for limited hours, but plans are to expand it in September.