About the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a fusion zoo, natural history museum, botanical garden, art gallery, and aquarium located in Tucson, Arizona. It features 2 miles of walking paths traversing 21 acres of desert landscape, and is home to more than 230 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants. The Museum is open 365 days a year, and sees nearly 400,000 visitors annually.
Founded in 1952 by William Carr and Arthur Pack, the Desert Museum is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the Sonoran Desert. The mission of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding of the Sonoran Desert. The Desert Museum is widely recognized throughout the world as a model institution for innovative presentation and interpretation of native plants and animals featured together in naturalistic exhibits. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is a member of the American Association of Museums and the American Public Gardens Association.
The Desert Museum is unique among zoological parks for its focus on interpreting the complete natural history of a single region, the Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran Desert region, as currently defined, covers approximately 200,000 square miles nearly equally divided between land and sea. It includes most of the southern half of Arizona, southeastern California, most of the Baja California peninsula, the islands of the Gulf of California, and much of the state of Sonora, Mexico. About two-thirds of the land portion of the Sonoran Desert, and 75 percent of its biodiversity, reside in Mexico, which means the vast majority of species and habitats that the Museum works to understand and protect lie south of the border. The Sonoran Desert is known as the lushest desert on earth, in large part due to its bi-seasonal rainfall.
Most of the Museum's exhibits are living exhibits, which simulate natural habitats and their interrelationships of plants, animals and geology. The Desert Museum's gardens represent a variety of biotic communities found within the Sonoran Desert, with over 56,000 individual plant specimens in such diverse areas as the: Mountain Woodland, Desert Grasslands, Agave & Cactus Gardens, Riparian Corridor, and Tropical Deciduous Forest.
Animals are exhibited in these immersive exhibits as well as in the Hummingbird and Walk-In Aviaries, Cat Canyon, Desert Loop Trail, Reptile, Amphibian, & Invertebrate Hall, and Warden Aquarium. The Museum's plant and animal collection includes about 20 endangered or threatened native species and hundreds of rare species. Several are part of federal or state recovery programs.
In addition, the Museum has an extensive Sonoran Desert region mineral and fossil collection totaling 16,000 catalogued specimens, some of which are on display at the Earth Sciences Center. The Center also houses a moon rock on loan from NASA.
The Desert Museum also pursues its mission of education, conservation and inspiration through the Conservation, Education & Science Department, Art Institute and the activities of the ASDM Press. Museum education programs reach nearly 40,000 children, their parents and teachers each year through programs on site and in the community. The Museum's conservation science programs strive to deepen understanding of ecological processes, revealing knowledge that can be applied to conserving the biological diversity of this unique ecosystem.
The Desert Museum's Art Institute was founded in 2001 to promote appreciation and conservation of the Sonoran Desert through art exhibits in its gallery as well as art classes. It offers over 80 annual art classes and a certificate program in nature art. Two art galleries feature regional, national and international fine art inspired by the natural world.
The ASDM Press publishes books on the natural and cultural history of the Southwest, particularly the Sonoran Desert Region. It has produced more than 40 books and guides including about a half dozen titles in English and Spanish for children.
The Museum is open 365 days a year. Hours vary by season. It is located 15 miles west of Tucson via Gates Pass through Tucson Mountain Park. The Museum complex is adjacent to Saguaro National Park.