Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

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The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a 98-acre zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, natural history museum, publisher, and art gallery founded in 1952. Located just west of Tucson, Arizona, it features two miles of walking paths traversing 21 acres of the desert landscape. It is one of the most visited attractions in Southern Arizona.

The nonprofit organization focuses on the interpretation of the natural history, plants, and animals of the Sonoran Desert. The museum is home to more than 230 animal species and 1,200 varieties of plants. It is open every day through the year, and hosts nearly 400,000 visitors annually, including visitors from abroad.

The museum is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a member of the American Alliance of Museums and the American Public Gardens Association.

Founded in 1952, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum interprets the complete natural history of a single region—the Sonoran Desert and adjacent ecosystems—with plants and animals from the region featured together in its exhibits.

William H. Carr inspired and founded the Desert Museum with the support of his friend, Arthur Pack, a conservationist, son of Charles Lathrop Pack, and editor of Nature Magazine. Carr had earlier founded the Bear Mountain Trailside Museum in New York, which was affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History. There he had developed a similar approach to displays, working with native plants and animals to create a regionally focused collection.

Pack, through his foundation, had provided $200,000 to open the museum and pay its operating cost, so the museum initially charged no admission. Although an admission charge was instituted in 1953, the museum is still supported only by admission fees, memberships, and donations, and receives no direct support from public taxes.

From 1953 to 1985, a local television series, Desert Trails, featured the museum. “It was an informal show, almost always having live animals and human guests, and focusing on the natural history of the desert as well as happenings at the museum.” In 1991 the museum partnered to develop a national television series known as “Desert Speaks.” It was produced in cooperation with the local PBS affiliate (KUAT), and with The Nature Conservancy of Arizona. This television series was broadcast in 200 markets and ran for 19 seasons. “

TripAdvisor rated the Museum as Tucson’s #2 attraction for 2018. It was ranked number 18 on their “Top 25 Museums – United States” and a top five public gardens to visit in the United States for 2018, and ranked number nine in the world on their “Traveler’s Choice” of top museums for 2013 and 2014. Condé Nast Traveler’s “The Daily Traveler” included in their list of five museums in the United States for children interested in dinosaurs.

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