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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : local August 19, 2014

10/29/2013 6:01:00 AM
Sharlot Hall Museum director heads south
Langellier leaving after six-plus years
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier, file
Dr. John Langellier, historian, author, and the Executive Director of the Sharlot Hall Museum, will be leaving the museum next month to take a new job as director of the Arizona Historical Society’s Central Division based in Tempe’s Papago Park.
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier, file
Dr. John Langellier, historian, author, and the Executive Director of the Sharlot Hall Museum, will be leaving the museum next month to take a new job as director of the Arizona Historical Society’s Central Division based in Tempe’s Papago Park.

Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - Sharlot Hall Museum Director John Langellier will be leaving after 6.5 years to become director of the Arizona Historical Society's Central Division based in Tempe's Papago Park.

He leaves Prescott Nov. 22. The new job includes directing the state's second-largest museum at Papago Park.

Langellier is returning to the same place where he held his first job as an intern in 1966, although the agency has greatly expanded.

"Arizona is where I started my career, and I'd like to retire here," he said.

The job in the Valley of the Sun will allow him to be closer to family in Tucson and have more time to work on a book about Arizona's military history, he said.

While he's moving south, Langellier said he'll still be visiting Prescott a lot next year because the city will be celebrating its 150th anniversary.

"With the sesquicentennial coming, you guys haven't got rid of me yet," he joked.

He has been helping to organize many of the 2014 anniversary events including the February dedication of "Sharlot's Depot," a new museum entrance facility made from an old train engine; the 55th annual Arizona History Convention in April, five years after the last time the convention was held in Prescott; the opening of the second phase of a new museum exhibit in early May; and the sesquicentennial of Fort Whipple's move to Prescott on May 18.

"Prescott really is where Arizona began," Langellier said of the territorial capital.

He said he hopes to continue to work with Sharlot Hall Museum in his new position, through traveling exhibits and other shared efforts.

Museum accomplishments under Langellier's direction included a new library archives center, its first new gallery since 1990, its first new building (for storage) since 1977, restoration of several historic buildings, and the publication of a book by Yavapai scout Mike Burns 100 years after Burns originally tried to publish it.

He faced public controversy last year when he fired long-time education curator Jody Drake, who had worked at the museum for 18 years and performed as the late Sharlot Hall. Drake had complained publicly about cuts to staff and events.

The Arizona Historical Society has division offices in Tempe, Tucson and Flagstaff that oversee different geographical areas.

The Sharlot Hall Museum also is owned by the state, but the museum and its Prescott Historical Society have been separate from the Arizona Historical Society since 1964. It oversees the Central Highlands geographic area.

Follow Joanna Dodder on Twitter: @joannadodder.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Article comment by: Speaking of Housecleaning —

Having been rendered blind and uncaring, completely snowed and manipulated by director Langellier, the museum's feckless Board needs a top-to-bottom scrubbing of its own.

Way too much done in secret these days . . . hmmm?

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: PUT THE BRAKES ON

All of you who are joyful over John Langellier's leaving should read the article again and see where he is going. He is becoming the head of the Arizona historical Society in Phoenix, a position that will give him even more power than he already has, it will give him the ear of the legislature, and since the AHS has long had a cozy relationship with Sharlot Hall Museum, he will continue to exert influence over Sharlot Hall, probably including who will be hired to replace him. Prescott has not seen or heard the last of John Langellier.

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: One Gone, One to Go . . .

There still remains some serious business to finish at Sharlot Hall Museum. A "housecleaning", sorely needed for the last several years, has become critically important. Now is the opportune time for the Board to finally step in and THOROUGHLY review the questionable accounting of finances by the Business Manager. They must get to the bottom of this chicanery once and for all, and then do what's right. Only with the management level slate wiped clean does the museum have any hope of recovery.

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: lil johnnyo

re: all the nay-sayers...........
John Langellier stewarded Sharlot Hall through the Great Recession, a very difficult period( you all may remember when you look at your property tax valuations) during which many such institutions shuttered their doors. Yes, Doners stopped donating funding was cut from the state and John was stuck making the hard decisions necessary to keep the doors open. A few good folk got hurt in the process and they have been vocal. We own a great Thanks to John Langelleir for getting through this tough last 5 years with our precious gem not pawned to the highest bidder.

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: Why Was He Allowed To Go So Long?

The answer is complicated. Personal favors were a part of it, John gave many out as condition of continued support. The Sharlot Hall Museum Board Of Trustees who dodged confrontation with the Director, allowed his unethical behavior and blindly followed is also a part of the story. Being the director he could cover up much and directly lied to the board, to no consequence. There is no whitewash that will cover up the mismanagement that took place at the board level.

John's dubious accomplishments are minimal but his legacy will become more painfully known in the years that follow. He has changed the museum forever. Six and one half years was too many. The Museum is in financial ruin and supporting membership has steadily declined, directly because of John Langellier. The Executive Director is leaving for greener pastures after desolating this landscape. Who will pick up the pieces and can they be picked up? One thing is for sure, like Humpty Dumpty, the pieces can't ever be put back together again.

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: Not So Fast, Peeps!

The Sharlot Hall Board of Directors remains filled with Langellier's hand-picked choices. This means they will hire someone just like him to replace him. It would be nice if Langellier's successor recognized the unbelievable damage he did to the museum's reputation, but I ain't holding my breath looking for the fence to come down just yet.

Posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Article comment by: Better Late Than Never!


Those of us who love Sharlot Hall Museum can finally feel the weight starting to lift, even though the director is not quite yet gone. Six and a half years ago, Langellier inherited the helm of a vibrant and growing museum with a stellar national reputation built over decades. The downward spiral began almost immediately . . . major donors headed for the hills, members dropped like flies, half the wonderful volunteer force left, many dedicated staff quit . . . all because of Langellier's incompetence. He altered or eliminated respected events, programming, festivals, theater (the authenticity of which is essential to a thriving history museum) and replaced them with faux-historical entertainment and tacky shoot-outs. Sadly, he has managed to take the very spirit out of this museum but hopefully, the damage that he has done over six long years is not irreparable.

It's a bright new day! Members, Volunteers, Donors — we can now begin to heal our beloved museum. Let's all join together once again to honor and restore Sharlot's vision.

Good bye, John Langellier, and good riddance!

Posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Article comment by: Adam gilfoolie

About time. Now, best wishes to those who try to repair the damage he wrought.

Posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Article comment by: Gary Leach

So Langellier oversaw the fencing off the grounds and the increasingly restrictive admittance as well, eh? Well, why leave the job undone? Throw up some screens around the perimeter so we can't even see in. Clearly we can't be permitted to enjoy anything about Sharlot Hall anymore without forking over the cash…

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