[Source: Gary Nelson, Arizona Republic] -- Mesa has one of Arizona's top cultural attractions in the heart of its downtown, but it's also one of the state's best-kept secrets. That's the view of those who want to change the name of the Mesa Southwest Museum, making it instead the Arizona Museum of Natural History. Museum director Tom Wilson is leading the charge, and he has at least one ally in City Councilman Rex Griswold. It's more than an ego thing, Wilson and Griswold said. Hard cash may be at stake, too. The city-owned museum lost half its budget and staff - $1.2 million and 12 positions - last year when Mesa slashed spending after voters rejected a property tax. Changing the name may give the facility a regional cachet and draw thousands more visitors, Wilson said.
"Right now just the name Mesa Southwest Museum is neither fish nor fowl," he said. "It doesn't really say we are one of the premier natural history museums in Arizona. We are sending an indeterminate and even confusing message to potential visitors." Changing the name, "would probably greatly increase our attendance" over the 131,000 who came last year, he said. "People would be better able to understand if they came to the museum what they'd be seeing here." He also thinks the museum would have a better chance of snagging grants if donors understood its mission. The museum has a statewide reach, Wilson said, with paleontologic investigations all over Arizona and displays featuring the region's fascinating biological and geological past. Griswold said Wilson approached him with the idea several weeks ago but was pessimistic the name change would fly. "I'll support any idea that's good for the residents," Griswold said. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]