Researchers from across the university are coming together to analyze, preserve and revitalize historic materials found during the renovation of Park Central Mall
Researchers from across Arizona State University are coming together to analyze, preserve and revitalize historic materials found during the renovation of Park Central Mall in midtown Phoenix.
The materials found range from old photographs and advertisements to microfilm reels and antique signage, all depicting a midcentury Phoenix in the midst of monumental growth.
“This is a one-of-a-kind collection of newspaper clippings, photographs, advertisements and ephemera related to Park Central Mall,” said Matthew Delmont, director of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and professor of history. “It is a sort of time capsule that gives us a glimpse into Phoenix's cultural history from the 1950s through the 1990s. It is an important collection of everyday history that reveals where people socialized, what they bought, how they dressed, what they ate and how these styles and tastes changed over the decades.”
The site of Phoenix’s first shopping mall, Park Central Mall is undergoing renovations to revitalize and return the property to its stature as a hub for community gathering. The developers, Peoria-based Plaza Companies, in conjunction with Tucson’s Holualoa Companies, discovered the historic materials during the first few days of renovation. Sharon Harper, president and CEO of Plaza Companies, ASU Trustee and co-chair of ASU President's Club, reached out to ASU with the thought of preserving the materials.
An interdisciplinary team of ASU researchers from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies (SHPRS), the Nexus Digital Research Co-op and ASU Library are working together to preserve and share the stories held within these historic pages.
“When you trace the history of Park Central Mall, you can see how Phoenix went from being a small town to being one of the largest cities in the United States,” Delmont said. “Phoenix has a rich history, but its history doesn't get as much attention as cities like Boston, Chicago or New York. Preserving the history of Park Central Mall is important because it was a hub that connected hundreds of thousands of Phoenix residents over multiple decades.”
Starting in 1957, Phoenix residents made memories at Park Central Mall. From shopping at Goldwater’s department store to hanging out after school, families congregated at the mall on Central Avenue. SHPRS Research Administrator Kristine Navarro-McElhaney and her team will be collecting those memories in community interviews and on collection days at the mall on March 3 and April 7.
“So many people have a deep connection with Park Central Mall — colorful stories, family memories and traditions that resonate with them to this day,” Navarro-McElhaney said. “We want to capture and preserve this rich history and not only highlight Park Central’s significance to those that experienced it, but preserve it for future generations.”