At a city council meeting in May, Paul Messinger’s granddaughter Sabrina Messinger looked out from the podium, note cards in her hands.
Sabrina attended the meeting on behalf of Paul to address the Scottsdale Heritage Connection’s decision to recognize the Messinger family by naming its interior space “The Messinger Family Research Room” — a decision the council backed unanimously.
“Paul is a natural storyteller and his passion for his community shines through his stories,” Sabrina said. “We are so thankful to have had this opportunity to be part of this, and I know just how important it is to him.”
Paul is the honorary chair of the Scottsdale Heritage Connection (SHC) campaign committee and the lead private contributor to this project.
“Paul Messinger’s historical knowledge, experience and giving nature and true love of Scottsdale stood out as he’s attended every single meeting,” said Scottsdale Library Director Kira Peters during her presentation at the meeting.
The 2,000-square-foot modern research space will house a collection of the oral, written and visual history of Scottsdale.
“Honestly, words escape me,” said councilman Guy Phillips. “Paul Messinger is such a wonderful, amazing guy. Scottsdale is so lucky to have had him all this time. I don’t want to choke up here, but I want to move to adopt Resolution No. 11435. What an honor and a tribute; this is fantastic.”
The SHC will be completed and open to the public by the end of the month.
The collection includes over 10,000 photographs and images of Scottsdale; more than 450 video and audio recordings highlighting the city’s history, 700 books, phone directories and local media; and local newspaper clippings from as early as the 1950s.
Visitors will also have access to oral histories, aerial views of Scottsdale’s past and an extensive collection of high school yearbooks dating back to the 1920s.
Images of Scottsdale architect Bennie Gonzales’ work, as well as past and present images of the Parada del Sol Parade, a featured event in Scottsdale since the 1950s, will also be available for viewing.
The SHC currently sits where the Scottsdale Arts Public Art-curated gallery was once located.
Scottsdale Arts has provided curated public art exhibitions within the library for the past 12 years, and they will continue to do so once a new, 680-square-foot gallery is built across from the SHC.
It will likely open sometime this fall, according to Wendy Raisanen, curator of collections and exhibitions for Scottsdale Public Art.
The city approved the construction of the new gallery space in April, and Public Art will curate three to six unique exhibits annually.
“Because this exhibition space is smaller than the space we had before, we’re planning to concentrate more on showing smaller works of many kinds: fine craft, glass, small metals, fibers, illustration, prints and photography. We will exhibit work by local artists and creatives. Of course, that’s not the full extent of what we can exhibit, but I’m excited about the new direction,” said Raisanen.
She added that because the new gallery is a modular space, Public Art will be able to change exhibitions quickly and more often.
“I don’t have a schedule of exhibitions or artists yet because the date for building this gallery has been such a moving target. But, I’ve been reaching out to new artists we haven’t seen before,” she said.
The goal of the new gallery space, according to Raisanen, is to introduce a quality art experience to people who might be intimidated by going to a museum, as well as to help them feel comfortable enjoying fine art.
“Our exhibition mantra is still this: Art is for everyone,” she said. “Maybe after coming in the Gallery @ The Library, they’ll feel curious enough to check out Scottsdale’s Arts District or Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art — or make art themselves.”
In the meantime, Raisanen continues to curate exhibitions for the Appaloosa Library in northern Scottsdale.
Currently on display at Appaloosa is “Before Ever After: My American Fairytale” by Shachi Kale, which runs through Aug. 30.
The gallery isn’t the only relocation within the library, though.
The SHC used to be located on the second floor of the library, but it was displaced upon Eureka Small Business’ arrival.
“Scottsdale Public Library promised the public it would bring this valued collection back out onto the main floor and accessible to the public at a future date and that future date is right now,” Peters said.
The SHC — a collaborative project between the city, the Friends of the Scottsdale Public Library, the Scottsdale Historical Society, the Scottsdale Library board, and a citizen-driven campaign committee — has been five years in the making.
SHC and its supporters spent the past two years fundraising for the project.
As of last month, more than $412,000 was contributed to the project, including funding from the city, individual donations, corporate donations and grants.
Now located next to the Knowasis Teen Center, the SHC is branded as “a window to the past, a celebration of the present and a portal to the future.”
For Sabrina, she hopes the SHC will help educate generations to come about Scottsdale’s histories, “so the stories I’ve grown up hearing throughout my childhood are not forgotten — because that’s what makes Scottsdale so special and us the most western town.”