In 1959, when the Arizona Historical Foundation was created, there were no archival repositories in central Arizona. Three like-minded individuals – Barry Goldwater, Bert Fireman, and Benjamin Sacks – shared a passion for the past and despaired over the loss of Arizona historical documents to major repositories outside the state. AHF was conceived as a research library, a publishing house and a museum. The goal: collect, re-claim, display and disseminate materials related to Arizona history.
When the Hayden Library was built in 1967, AHF was invited to occupy the fourth floor. Its holdings served as the special collections unit for the next 20 years when it was mutually decided to separate the collections physically and administratively.
What and how AHF collected largely reflected the founders’ personal interests. Bert Fireman, as a journalist and adjunct faculty for the History Department, sought material for articles and class room use. Benjamin Sacks channeled his energies and attention to detail on Territorial Arizona. Among the first deposits was Barry Goldwater’s family records and collection of historical photographs which resulted in the book The Goldwaters of Arizona by Dean Smith.
The Arizona Historical Foundation occupies a unique niche in the collecting community by virtue of its founders, its holdings, and its relationship with the Hayden Library. AHF is committed to preserving Arizona material of enduring historical value while providing access for Arizonans and the world at large.
Our holdings now include nearly 200 manuscript collections, 60,000 photographs, ephemera, books, artifacts, film, videos, oral histories, political cartoons, microfilm and several distinctive card catalogs. While some material dates back to the 1860s, the bulk of the collections document 20th and 21st century life in Arizona.
We are the New West. We begin the 21st century with a continuing commitment to service, scholarly research, and community outreach. Our collecting focus will continue to emphasize Arizona politics, business and legal affairs that dominate 21st century life.
We see AHF as a laboratory to test archival practices, expand the notion of reference services, explore sustainable ways to catalog and preserve materials, and increase public knowledge about what archives can do. We will be more selective in what we collect, more dependent on technology, and more closely linked with the Arizona collecting community and other repositories in the West. Our goal is to increase access to unique and rich material in ways that adds to an appreciation of Arizona's impact on the nation and the world.