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The Tempe History Museum first opened to the public in 1972. It was founded by the Tempe Historical Society and it originally occupied the Tempe Public Library east wing. In 1984, the museum was placed under the division of the Community Services Department of the City of Tempe.

Soon after, the entire library building was converted into a new museum. On June 15, 1991, the new Tempe Historical Museum opened to the public.
A bond was once again approved to fund a major renovation process for the museum in 2006. Today, the museum also operates the Petersen House Museum, which occupies an 1892 Queen Anne Victorian style house. It was built by one pioneers of Tempe.

Today, the Museum?s new main exhibition hall, Tempe: Distinct, Diverse, Dynamic, serves as the focal point of the new Tempe History Museum. In this exhibit, the Tempe?s story is narrated and illustrated using varied forms of media. It fulfills the exploration of Tempe?s history using different themes, the College Town, Building Our Community, Living Together, and Surviving the Desert.
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