Senior Leadership

David Breeckner
Executive Director
A passion for history and learning. These traits define Dr. David Breeckner, and describe a career spanning the fields of archaeology, college lecturing, public history, and museum management. A transplant from New England, Dr. Breeckner received his Masters and Doctorate in Classical Archaeology at Trinity College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland. Since 2011, Dr. Breeckner has served as ceramic archaeologist with the Priniatikos Pyrgos Project, an Irish-led excavation based on the Mediterranean island of Crete. There, he specialized in the study of the enigmatic Minoan civilization of the Greek Bronze Age. His work with the Project demonstrated the transformative nature of interacting with history: that the sensation of studying and handling artifacts was in fact a conversation — one that bridges the present with the countless lives and stories of the past, and makes it come alive. This philosophy now drives Dr. Breeckner in all his endeavors. An educator, Dr. Breeckner has served as a member of faculty in various state universities, where his courses covered historical subjects and civilizations from prehistory through to the Renaissance. His time with students has refined a pedagogy focused around deep engagement, with the goal to reveal the relevancy of the past and to inspire meaningful connections between students and their subject. He believes that history belongs to the communities they represent, and that its study can provide new meaning and value to our present and future. David is thrilled to share his experience-based way of learning and a forward-looking vision for the future with the people of Arizona, joining AHS with his wife Leslye and their two dogs, Brandy and Akira.

Tawn DownsTawn Downs Photo
Vice President of Finance & Communications 

Tawn Downs’ career spans more than 30 years with global and Fortune 500 companies, leading marketing, sales, customer service and finance teams, as well as project and organizational management initiatives. Tawn transitioned to nonprofits with the Arizona Historical Society as the Central Division Director, where she developed collaborative partnerships with community leaders, museums, and other community organizations to deliver fresh and culturally diverse exhibitions and programs. In her current role, she oversees marketing and public relations, as well as revenue development from operations for the organization. She has served in leadership roles on a variety of boards and professional organizations, and continues to volunteer in her community. Tawn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Arizona State University. Tawn enjoys cooking, reading, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. She is a fitness enthusiast, who enjoys HIIT workouts, running and hiking.

Yanna Kruse PhotoYanna Kruse
Vice President, Historic Properties and Guest Experience
Yanna Kruse is the Vice President of Guest Experience for the Arizona Historical Society, and sites manager of the Sanguinetti House Museum and Gardens and the Molina Block in historic downtown Yuma since 2014. Formerly the Vice President of Marketing for AEA Federal Credit Union, Yanna is a lover of the art and science of marketing, honored with numerous awards for innovations in marketing. With support from the Yuma County Historical Society, the Sanguinetti House Museum was awarded Visit Yuma’s EGRET Award (Expression of Gratitude in Recognition of Efforts for Tourism) and the Arizona Governor’s Tourism Award. Yanna lives on a small ranch in Yuma County with her husband Ronald and a small herd of animals including miniature donkeys and horses, goats, geese, dogs, fish, and one chatty cockatiel.


Jaynie Adams PhotoJaynie Adams
Education Team Lead, Museum Educator Curator/National History Day Arizona Coordinator
Jaynie Adams is the Education Team Lead statewide for the Arizona Historical Society and Museum Educator at the Arizona History Museum in Tucson. She holds an MA in history from the University of Arizona and is privileged to work in Tucson, her hometown. Jaynie is one of AHS’ team of staff historians; her work as a historian is rooted in a place-based practice where she critically explores race, place, and belonging in the American Southwest. Her work as a museum educator centers on diversity, inclusion, and inquisitivity.

Allison Avery
Museum Education Curator
Allison Avery PhotoAllison Avery joined the Arizona Historical Society team in January 2020. Following her love for education and history, Allison worked as a 5th grade social studies teacher for two years and taught 2nd grade S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) for one year. Attending Arizona State University, Allison graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with a minor in American Indian Studies. Her degree equipped her with an understanding of human history that gave a fresh perspective on her educational philosophy. Allison recently graduated from Grand Canyon University with a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction and plans to pursue a Doctor of Education in K-12 Leadership degree from the same institution.

Todd Bailey Staff PhotoTodd Bailey
Special Projects Coordinator
Todd Bailey is an Arizona native who has traveled the world as a professional dance and dance educator. He began developing a passion for Arizona history as a child. His grandparents told stories of their family and other African American families migrating west, from the southern states. Todd has been with the Arizona Historical Society since 2018, and in that time has worn many hats. He has been a liaison for a Certified Historical Institution program, and has helped with connecting curation to black historians and local communities that have been a challenge to track. Todd’s relationship with Marked by COVID, a nationwide awareness and support group, led to a very important and timely COVID Memorial Proclamation Event. As part of the Guest Experience team, he had the unique experience of listening as grieving Arizonans spoke of their family loss amidst the pandemic. 

Rachael Black PhotoRachael Black
Librarian & Archivist
Rachael Black grew up in Colorado, but has spent the better part of the last decade circling the American West for various jobs and school. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in southwest studies from Fort Lewis College and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. Rachael’s career in museums began when she stumbled into a work study job at the Delaney Library at the Center for Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College. Since then, she has worked in a variety of different institutions, from public libraries to state archives, and on a variety of projects, including creating interactive maps of botanical gardens, and coordinating a multi -million-dollar National Science Foundation grant. She is happy to be back at home in the museum field.

Isabel Cazares PhotoIsabel Cazares
Archivist & Librarian
Isabel Cazares recently joined the team at AHS as a staff archivist. Having graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and East Asian Studies and from Simmons University with a Master’s of Science in Library and Information Science, Isabel brings a broad skillset and unique perspective to the team. Isabel connects communities with their rich heritage and engages AHS visitors and the general public by sharing her passion for history. Her goals at AHS include enhancing practices to share dynamic archival materials with a broader audience and learning more about Arizona’s fascinating history. Isabel is always interested in engaging conversation and dynamic discussion and supports that interest by managing a local book club, exploring a broad range of topics, from history to science fiction.

Shelley_Coriell PortraitShelley Coriell
Outreach and Membership
Shelley Coriell is a Certified Nonprofit Professional and a fierce advocate of universal access to arts and culture. She has spent more than twenty years serving the nonprofit sector, primarily with membership organizations, working in community engagement, public relations, development, and advocacy. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, did graduate studies in Library and Information Science at the University of Arizona, and studied storytelling under Michael Hauge and Blake Snyder. In her spare time, this Arizona native grows vegetables, hangs out on Dog Twitter, and writes novels.

Jace Dostal Staff PhotoJace Dostal
Registrar
Jace Dostal joined the Arizona Historical Society in July 2021. He helps ensure the safety of the collections housed across AHS museums and historical sites. As an avid museum goer, Jace developed his passion for museums at a young age. After earning his B.A. in history from Iowa State University, he followed his passion to Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis where he earned his M.A. in Museum Studies. While in Indy, he interned at the Rhythm! Discovery Center where he worked on a major rehousing initiative within the collection. His work at Rhythm! has made him interested in the intersection between the public’s access to museum collections and the preservation of the objects in the collection. He is a strong advocate for granting the public easier access to the collection while still maintaining the safety and longevity of the collection as a whole. A native Iowan, Jace is excited to explore Arizona and learn about the diverse history of the state.

Vanessa Fajardo PhotoVanessa Fajardo
Curator
Vanessa Fajardo has always had a passion for sharing diverse history with Tucson communities. During her senior year at the University of Arizona, she began her work at the Arizona History Museum curating a temporary exhibition on African American WAACs at Fort Huachuca during WWII. After earning her Bachelor of Arts from the UA, where she double majored in history and religious studies, Vanessa became an intern and completed her first professional exhibition, January 8, 2011: Hope and Resilience. As both a first-generation American and college graduate, she has a passion for creating, developing, and designing exhibitions that are honest about past histories and are inclusive of all peoples and groups. Vanessa feels thankful and privileged that the Arizona Historical Society is a place to present and discuss the past in an impartial and creative way.

Douglas Helber
Facilities Manager
Douglas Helber was born and raised in Hawaii and has lived in Tucson Arizona for 25 years. After working in the construction/engineering industry for over 20 years, Douglas transitioned into facility management with the State of Arizona for the last decade. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that include studies in construction management, the International Facility Management Association and Lean Six Sigma style best practices management. He is well versed in historical restoration and trade work that extend into modern trade practices. He has worked with the National Park Service on Tumacacori, Ft Bowie, Coronado, Chiricahua and Saguaro National Parks and Monuments on their historic and facility structures and has volunteered doing backcountry work in Volcano and Haleakala National Parks. In his spare time he enjoys spending time in the Sonoran Desert with his children exploring and learning about the history and Native cultures of the region.

Nova Jesswein
Museum Education Curator
Nova Jesswein recently joined the team at the Pioneer Museum in Flagstaff as the Education Outreach Curator. She holds a BA in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara and will graduate with an MA in history from Northern Arizona University in the Spring of 2022. Nova’s work as a public historian is driven by her desire to incorporate more voices into the public sphere, changing how we understand the past as a collective story. Her academic focus has been on race, gender, and ethnicity. Previously, Nova was the Education Assistant at Santa Barbara Maritime Museum and an Interpretation Intern with the National Park Service at Wupatki National Monument. In her free time she likes to draw, spend time with friends, and play with her dog, Dipper.

David Turpie PhotoDavid Turpie
Vice President of Exhibitions, Education, and Publications and Editor of the Journal of
Arizona History
David holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Maine. After teaching college-level history in Maine and editing the Journal of Maine History, David moved to the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS), where he oversaw the state history journal and the KHS Research Fellowship Program. At AHS, David edits the Journal of Arizona History, oversees the annual Arizona History Convention, and directs the statewide exhibition and education teams. He has published his own research in several journals, including the Journal of Southern History. David formerly served on the editorial board of the University Press of Kentucky and currently serves on the editorial advisory board of the University of Arizona Press.

Rebekah-Tabah Percival PhotoRebekah Tabah-Percival
Vice President, Library, Archives, & Collections
Rebekah is an Arizona native with a deep affinity for photographs. She received a Bachelor of Science in Photography from Northern Arizona University and a Master of Arts in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management from Ryerson University in Toronto. Rebekah has worked in a wide variety of museums, archives, libraries, and galleries in the United States, Canada, and Europe. She has extensive experience in processing large and complex photograph and media collections, and has preserved, processed and made available over 150,000 photographs consisting of various formats. Rebekah is currently a Ph.D. candidate in public history at Arizona State University. Her dissertation topic explores the history of photography in the southwest borderlands and iconic imagery of the American West.

Melba Davis
Vice President of Operations/ Human Resources and Procurement
Melba Davis joined the Arizona Historical Society in April of 2017 as a procurement officer. During her tenure with the Agency she has accepted multiple roles and is now overseeing Facilities, Procurement, Human Resources, Training and Compliance. She is team oriented, thinks outside of the box and really enjoys her new role within the Agency. Melba is someone who loves to create something from nothing using things that are found or that are already owned. Whether it’s designing and setting up new office spaces within the agency or creating new artwork from found objects.


Elizabeth Kapp PhotoElizabeth Kapp
Preparator
Elizabeth Kapp joined the Arizona Historical Society in August 2021. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in History and Art History. She has a Masters in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program through the State University of New York at Oneonta. Previously, she has worked on exhibits at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Elizabeth is excited to tell meaningful stories through engaging exhibits.

Lora Key PhotoLora M. Key, Ph.D.
Managing Editor,
Journal of Arizona History/AHS Fellowship Program Coordinator
Lora Key received her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona with a focus on twentieth-century history of the American West, military history, and Mexican-American history. She is currently working on her manuscript, tentatively titled, “Performing Patriotism: How Mexican Americans Identity, Culture, and Gender Forged Civil Rights in World War II and Beyond.” Dr. Key has been active in the Tucson community, giving guest lectures at the University of Arizona and the Arizona Historical Society. She has presented at several conferences including the Western History Association and the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association. Working at AHS has only increased Lora’s love of history and she looks forward to continuing this important work.

Irma Lopez
Administrative Services Officer
Before joining the Arizona Historical Society in 2022, Irma worked as an Administrative Assistant for the Arizona Department of Administration, where she supported numerous agencies at the Regional Complex. Throughout her experience in administration and operation roles, Irma learned to approach all aspects of any job with a positive, hard-working mindset, and has been passionate about helping find solutions to any challenge. Irma is excited to bring these experiences and enthusiasm to her new team at AHS.

Elyssa Marley photoElyssa Otero Marley
Guest Experience Specialist/Branch Museum Manager
Elyssa is a graduate of the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s in History and a minor in Evolutionary and Ecological Biology. A 10th generation descendant of the Otero family, Arizona’s history is in her blood! Through her work at Historic Fort Lowell, the Downtown History Museum and the Arizona History Museum in Tucson, she has gained a broad understanding of Arizona history. As a Guest Experience Specialist, Elyssa works to make every guest feel comfortable and welcome. A practiced crafter, she loves having the opportunity to use her gifts to teach guests many different art forms, from weaving to candle dipping. The one thing she can’t seem to get the hang of is knitting!

Tamara Mack McElwee
Events and Rentals Coordinator
Tamara is a 5th Generation Tucsonan and UA alum, and has over 25 years of experience in event design, production, marketing and PR. She joined AHM in July of 2021 and has been able to share her skills through designing and producing one-of-a-kind historical, celebrity and educational events connecting the Tucson community, as well as, developing an exciting rental venue opportunity for Tucsonans. Formerly the House Manager for The Fox Theatre, Tamara helped rebuild Fox events, reclaiming the theatre’s title as “The Crowned Jewel of Downtown Tucson.” Tamara has a strong non-profit background and has been involved in multiple Tucson charities, boards and coalitions, including the appointment as a small business owner to the original Rio Nuevo Board. She is an avid artist, actress and trains and competes as a pro powerlifter and bodybuilder. When not working on events, she enjoys time outside in her garden with her collection of rescue animals!

Carole McQueen
Finance Manager
Carole McQueen joined AHS in November 2021. She began her career with the State of Arizona 24 years ago in Business and Finance with the Department of Corrections, in both Safford and Tucson. Carole is an Arizona native, born and raised in a small mining town approximately 45 miles north of Tucson. She moved to Colorado and West Virginia for a short time and then returned to Arizona to raise her family. Her passions include her family, friends, entertaining and trying new local restaurants. She also loves spending time with her three grandchildren. Carole is an avid fan of professional and University of Arizona sports, and enjoys traveling and experiencing new adventures such as whale watching, hot air ballooning and ziplining through the Costa Rican jungle. 

Jennifer Merry PhotoJennifer Merry
Archivist & Historian
Jennifer once dreamed of becoming the next Howard Carter, and achieved a Bachelor of Arts in classical archaeology from the University of Arizona. Later, an opportunity to preserve a small family cemetery inspired her to pursue a Master of Arts in history with a concentration in public history. She has worked on projects for Salt River Project, the Arizona State Archives, and Scottsdale Historic Preservation. Jennifer was the News Content Coordinator for the State of Arizona Research Library, where she managed an extensive newspaper collection and co-wrote an accepted NEH grant. She chairs the Arizona chapter of the Association for Gravestone Studies and the cemetery law committee, and sits on boards for several local museums, genealogy, and lineage societies. She speaks on cemetery preservation and law reform, incorporating both in the Genealogy Research Methods practicum she teaches for ASU’s History Master’s Program. When she isn’t working, volunteering, or with her husband and many pets, she loves writing stories.

Peter Mueller-Martin
Building Maintenance Specialist
Peter moved to Arizona from Germany in 1993 to marry his wife Regina, a Tucson native. Peter is a Master Fireplace and Wood Burning Heating System builder by trade. He joined the Arizona Historical Society in 2016 after retiring as a Physical Plant Director from the Correctional Officer Training Academy in Tucson. Growing up in the former East Germany, Peter was always interested in history and social developments. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he worked for a year in the Government Offices for the files of the former East German Secret Service Police (Stasi), providing victims of political persecution access to their files. He enjoys providing support for the next generation of caretakers of Arizona history within the museums of the Arizona Historical Society.

Perri Pyle PhotoPerri Pyle
Archivist & Librarian
Originally from Sugar Land, Texas, Perri Pyle recently moved to Tucson in search of warmer weather. Perri is an archivist with an interest in 20th century political and social movements, particularly human rights campaigns and international diplomacy. Prior to grad school, she spent several years in Argentina before earning a Master of Arts in history and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Maryland. Outside of work, Perri is an avid rock climber and dog lover.

Nate Samoriski PhotoNathan Samoriski
Statewide Collections Manager
Nathan Samoriski joined the Arizona Historical Society in August 2019. He oversees the three-dimensional collections at the Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park. He attended Stonehill College in Massachusetts, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in history and a minor in German, and gained experience working with unique museum collections at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, MA, and at The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, MD. Nate recently graduated with a Master of Arts in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown graduate program, State University of New York at Oneonta, where he learned the most current philosophy and practices on caring for, and using museum collections. He is excited to bring the collections at the Arizona Historical Society to life.

Dominique Sandoval
Guest Experience Specialist
Dominique Sandoval graduated with her Masters in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University in 2019. Having grown up volunteering and working in public and academic libraries for over 15 years, she found her love for reading and her dream to become a Librarian. Having previously worked for Yuma County Library for 8 years in teen services, is where she found her passion working with the youth. Her love for museums stems from being homeschooled through 5th grade all through high school, where her mother (who was also her teacher) actively took her to all kinds of museums in Denver and Las Vegas growing up making her education a fun, learning experience. Dominique joined the Arizona Historical Society in 2021, where she has been part of the Guest Experience team. She enjoys helping run events and interacting with guests that visit the Sanguinetti House and Museum in Yuma. Dominique’s hobbies include: reading, photography, playing video games, watching her favorite tv shows and going to the movies, journaling, and traveling whenever she gets a chance.

Marianna Touloumes
Communications Manager
Marianna comes to the Arizona Historical Society all the way from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Political Science from Chatham University. During and after college, she worked as a Communications Consultant for multiple organizations, helping them be successful through public and media relations, writing and editing a variety of materials, website maintenance, growing their social media presence and more. Marianna is thrilled to be able to combine her passion of communications with her love of the arts and history as the Communications Manager. In her free time, Marianna loves to spend time with her friends and family, as well as stay active through powerlifting, hiking, surfing, and skiing!

 

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