Precious metals have been mined in Arizona since the first people arrived thousands of years ago. Gold, silver and copper were used by indigenous people for pigments, ornaments and tools. Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century came to Southwest looking for precious metals including copper. Copper mining began in earnest in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and 1863 a quarter of Arizonas were mining metals. Copper mining is still an important part of Arizona’s economy.

What happened to those millions of tons of copper? It was shipped out of Arizona to be manufactured into to useful and decorative objects elsewhere. Now a museum in Clarkdale, Arizona, has set out to rectify that situation. Build on the collections of two avid copper aficionados, the Arizona Copper Art Museum displays over 5,000 examples of copper artifacts ranging from the useful to the decorative. The museum is housed in the former Clarkdale High School building and each classroom features a different collection. Seven categories of copper art include military art, architecture, religious art, kitchenware and drinkware with objects from the Stone Age to modern times. By returning them home to Clarkdale where some of the copper originated, the Copper Art Museum tells the story of copper’s importance to Arizona’s history.

The gallery below shows a small sample of the amazing copper objects on view. Check out the Arizona Copper Art Museum website of more details.

For directions to Clarkdale, go to the AZ89A Prescott to Flagstaff Road Trip Guide.