As the only museum within 150 miles of Flagstaff, Arizona, that is fully accredited by the prestigious American Alliance of Museums, the Museum of Northern Arizona has a long and illustrious history as a facility dedicated to documenting the fascinating natural history and significant cultural diversity of Northern Arizona and the Colorado Plateau region. The Museum houses a tremendous number of historical artifacts, and routinely features several different special exhibits at any one time. Its permanent collections include holdings in fields like biology, geology, anthropology, botany, paleontology, zoology, and the fine arts.
Museum of Northern Arizona History and Background
The Museum of Northern Arizona was founded in 1928 by the husband-and-wife team of Dr. Harold Colton and Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton. Dr. Colton, a zoologist at the University of Pennsylvania, and Ferrell Colton, an acclaimed artist, moved from Philadelphia to Flagstaff in 1926. As they settled into their new home, they became smitten by the history, culture, and natural beauty of the region. They decided to establish a museum devoted to honoring and preserving the artifacts, artworks, and knowledge of the many people who have inhabited Northern Arizona and the full expanse of the Colorado Plateau throughout the entirety of human history. Their efforts were spearheaded most prominently by the work of Katharine Bartlett, an anthropologist whom the Coltons hired as the first curator of the Museum of Northern Arizona in 1930. Bartlett devoted the next 51 years of her life to the Museum of Northern Arizona, organizing its collections, cataloguing its library holdings, and running its essential operations.
What’s at the Museum of Northern Arizona
The Museum of Northern Arizona is home to over 800,000 artifacts, specimens, and cultural objects. These holdings span a remarkable range of fields and interests, including botany, biology, geology, anthropology, the fine arts, and many, many more. Popular permanent exhibits here include such collections as “Native Peoples of the Colorado Plateau,” “Geology Gallery,” and the “Babbitt Gallery,” which displays highlights drawn from the Museum’s extensive collection of ancient jewelry and modern ceramic pieces.
The Museum of Northern Arizona occupies a beautiful setting just north of Flagstaff. It is surrounded by a series of trails that offer up pleasant walks and stunning views of several of the hills and canyons of this lovely area. You can even access the Flagstaff Urban Trail System from the MNA’s parking lot. These trails are open from dawn to dusk; complimentary maps of the trail system around the MNA may be acquired at the Museum’s front desk.
The Museum of Northern Arizona is located just north of downtown Flagstaff. This prime spot puts it just a few minutes’ drive away from all manner of amenities, including plentiful dining choices and suitable accommodations. It is also well-situated in the midst of many other popular local attractions, including Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, Lowell Observatory, Sunset Crater Volcano, Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, and more. Likewise, the world-famous South Rim of the Grand Canyon is just 75 miles north of the Museum, and the breathtaking red-rock vistas of charming Sedona are only 30-some miles to the south.
Tips for Visiting the Museum of Northern Arizona
- Museum of Northern Arizona is open Monday through Saturday between the hours of 10:00am and 5:00pm, and on Sundays between the hours of 12:00pm and 5:00pm. Last admission is always 30 minutes before the close of the Museum.
- For adults over the age of 18, admission to the Museum costs $12. For children between the ages of 10 and 17 years old, the fee is just $8. All children 9 years old and younger may be admitted to the Museum for free.
- For those families traveling with small children, the Museum of Northern Arizona regularly runs special events and programs designed specifically to engage with children between the ages of 4 and 14 years old. If you think your little one would enjoy such an experience, make sure to check the MNA’s official website for a schedule of events around the time of your planned visit.
- With over 800,000 artifacts in its collections, the Museum of Northern Arizona can only put a tiny, tiny number of them on display at any one given point in time. If you’re interested in getting a “behind-the-scenes” glimpse at some of the Museum’s holdings that are not regularly accessible, then one of the MNA’s special and rare “Collections Tours” is for you. You’ll need to check their website or call to inquire about availability in advance, but typically these tours run on the third Friday of every month at 4:00pm.