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James Ayres & Bernard Fontana

James E. Ayres (1936-2015)

Jim Ayres received a B.A. from Fresno State College and an M.A. from the University of Arizona in 1970.  He was a pioneer in historical archaeology of the West. 

Ayres directed excavations for the Tucson Urban Renewal Project in the late 1960s, headed the research division at the Arizona State Museum, served as Arizona State Historic Preservation Officer, taught at both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, and did independent consulting. 

Ayres served as President of the Society for Historical Archaeology in 1977 and received the society’s two highest awards, including the J. C. Harrington medal.  He chaired the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission and received the Arizona Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation.  Ayres spent many summers recording historical logging sites in the Uinta Mountains in Utah.

Bernard “Bunny” Fontana (1931-2016)

Bunny Fontana was a cultural anthropologist, field researcher, archaeologist, historian, writer, and co-founder of Patronato San Xavier, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration of Mission San Xavier del Bac.  He helped create the Southwestern Mission Research Center at the University of Arizona in 1965 to support borderlands research and education.

Fontana received a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1960.  He spent 30 years at the university in roles including field historian with the library, ethnologist at the Arizona State Museum, and lecturer in the Department of Anthropology.

Fontana wrote vibrant histories of the indigenous populations of the Southwest, including the Tohono O’odham in Arizona and Sonora and the Tarahumara (Rarámuri) in Chihuahua, Mexico, and he was the leading expert on Mission San Xavier.  Starting in the late 1980s, Fontana advocated for and then organized a five-year restoration of the mission, weathered by two centuries of water and sun damage, graffiti, and faulty earlier restorations.  Fontana brought in international experts on art conservation to head up the interior restoration.

James Ayres and Bernard Fontana – Part 1

James Ayres and Bernard Fontana – Part 2

James Ayres and Bernard Fontana – Part 3

James Ayres and Bernard Fontana – Part 4