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Past exhibits



Through a collection of theater, movie and television photos and objects, this exhibit explored how various forms of entertainment have captivated and transformed Mesa audiences for over a century.


This exhibit celebrated the many different cultures that contributed to the settlement of Mesa, including some of the extraordinary individuals who broke racial barriers to become civic leaders in

Mesa's community.

Women Aviation.jpg

The Women in Aviation exhibit honored the contributions by women aviators who lived, worked and flew in Arizona. Notable aviatrixes, such as Ruth Reinhold, Ruby Wine Sheldon, Jacqueline Cochran, Jeannie Flynn and Martha McSally are just some of the pilots that were featured in this exhibit, which covered more than 100 years of aviation history in Arizona.

Women in Aviation

Hallelujah Hats!

A celebration of Mesa’s

Washington Park Community

Hallelujah Hats! was a celebration of the churches of Washington Park through the jewelry, hats, and fashion worn by church goers. It documented the once thriving segregated African American community in Mesa, Arizona. From the early days of slavery to today, the African American community has embraced the church as a symbol and site for inspiration, guidance and hope. The tradition of adorning oneself has deep roots dating back to the first African Slaves in America. Guest curator Bruce Nelson presented an exhibition focusing around five churches in the Washington Park neighborhood. The exhibit included vintage hats, purses, gloves, costume jewelry, and shoes. Historic photographs (baptizing in the canal), and oral histories were also displayed.  There was a showing of the documentary Gospel Radio Man.


Stitching Mesa Together Community through Making

Featuring the 1918 Mesa Red Cross Quilt, this exhibit showcased how participating in crafts has helped to build community. From quilting and knitting, to weaving and basketry, crafts have been an integral part of group activity. These groups have in many cases become essential community support mechanisms in times of need, while other crafts, saddlery and metal work, have contributed to community celebrations. This exhibit, taken from the museum’s permanent collections, showed examples of these and other crafts dating from the very first years of settlement in Mesa.



Gizmos, Gadgets, and Greatness

Since modern man first appeared over 100,000 years ago the ability to make tools and the drive to advance technology has been the hallmark of what we call progress: making a better stone knife, eventually discovering how to make bronze and iron, learning to cultivate and weave fibers like cotton and flax. All of these technologies have made the lives of human beings easier and more productive. 

More recent history, following the industrial revolution, this drive to advance technology has hit warp speed, with new inventions literally appearing on a daily basis. This was no less true of the early settlers of Mesa Arizona. When they first arrived in 1877 -1878 they came with simple shovels, picks, axes and plows. The larger equipment being powered by horse or oxen. The land they found was an arid desert that had a life-giving source of survival, used thousands of years ago by the first farmers of Mesa, the Hohokam: The Salt River. Using the simple tools they brought with them the early settlers started to build a life and make the desert bloom again as it had in the distant past. Within a few short years innovation, by local farmers and inventors from across the United States transformed Mesa into an agricultural wonderland. Economic development blossomed and by the mid twentieth century Mesa had become a center of agriculture and commerce in the Salt River valley.  

This show tells the story of the technologies used by the early settlers and their descendants. How these technologies made their lives possible in the desert, and how they made their lives easier and connected them to the rest of the United States and the rest of the world.



Originally the word “gizmo” was meant to describe any “gadget” that either didn’t have a name or was unknown to the user. In the early twentieth century, as inventors and electrical engineers produced numerous appliances never before seen or even dreamt of by the general public, gizmo became synonymous with anything powered by electricity.  



By definition a gadget is “any device or tool, especially an ingenious or novel one.” From the earliest days of Mesa’s settlements there were many tools both novel and ingenious.

As Dorothy famously said in the Wizard of Oz,


“there is no place like home.”

How we interpret the meaning of home is complex and defined by our unique personal experiences. Making Mesa Home takes a look a what makes a home for each individual and how your home contributes to our community.  Features of the exhibit include personal stories from Mesa residents, interactive chalkboards throughout the exhibit and a community room where guest can draw on our city sky line and color your own house to become apart of our community house.


Strange Collections:Cat People

of the Outer Regions

The Art of Karen Kuykendall



Our lives are bound up with objects. Humans have a deep preoccupation with the things that surround us.  Whether an object is the product of a human endeavor or from the natural world, we keep stuff. There are many reasons why we collect.  Museums collect objects in order to both preserve and construct stories about our changing communities.  An object can provide a tangible link to the past and our future while invoking strong emotions that conjure both nostalgia and challenge our connections to each other.  But who determines what objects are of social value?


In the exhibition Strange Collections: Cat People of the Outer Regions: The Art of Karen Kuykendall, the Mesa Historical Museum takes an unprecedented look at a never-before-seen collection of art and artifacts and asks: How do the things we make end up in museums?  Who determines what is kept and seen?  How is the value assigned to an object determined in public institutions? In this whimsical and imaginative collection of aliens and cats, we explore how Kuykendall’s art may be viewed within in a modern museum and social context. Has our idea of fantasy art changed since Kuykendall created her work? What is the role of history and art in science fiction today? 


Kuykendall was a pioneer in the popularization of science fiction art.  We explore the historical implications of her work, how it may be viewed from a modern lens, and how collecting and assigning value to objects within a museum mirrors social and community change.

Highlights from the Wallace and Ladmo Show


Thanks for Tuning In:  The Wallace and Ladmo Show is a fascinating exhibit that explores the history and fun facts of a local television show that captivated three generations of Arizonans. 


The Mesa Historical Museum proudly presents what has been called “The Holy Grail of Arizona”, the coveted LADMO BAG!

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