History shows us the shape of Arizona right now is much different compared to 150 years ago. The same was true before that time.

This week, the staff of curators at the Arizona History Museum in Midtown put the last touches on their latest exhibit, ‘Shaping Arizona’ a showcase of the forces and artifacts that, over time, molded our present.

Exhitbits curator Vanessa Fajardo showed us the room where she and her team laid out the pieces that will hang on walls or lay behind glass cases.

Part of what guests will learn is on maps, which lay out a fraction of the region’s history, Fajardo said.

Years of archaeological research have revealed just how far history dates back to Native communities before Spain sent explorers west.

Still, this new exhibit shows the land mass of North America as Mexico and the U.S developed their own forms of government; as leaders engaged in territorial wars, and as both nations further defined their lands with the Compromise of 1850 and the Gadsden Purchase.

“The lines crossed people in communities here (in Tucson),” Fajardo said. “(They had to) try to make that choice of, ‘Where are you going to live? Where are you going to stay?'”

In her research, Fajardo said she found several interesting tidbits of a history that could have been Arizona’s, but ultimately never was.

“Las Vegas was almost part of Arizona,” she said. “It’s one of those things where, if that happened and that’s the way it stayed, obviously Nevada history would have changed completely. Our history would have changed completely… “

What about the decisions that have determined our lives today? Fajardo said that’s where a treasure trove of artifacts comes in to play. On the surface, they may seem ordinary, but each helps crystallize specific moments in time; case in point: an old-fashioned golden pen.

“It was actually used by Pres. (William Howard) Taft to sign Arizona into statehood (in 1912),” Fajardo said, “(and) we’ll actually have a photograph of him signing it, within one of the cases, as well.”

We asked Fajardo how museums like AZHM go about finding these valuable artifacts. In short, Fajardo said, they’re donations and gifts to institutions like theirs. “It’s just super cool,” she said, “that so many people are saving things like that and going, ‘We want to preserve Arizona history.'”

Part of preserving that history means Fajardo and the Arizona Historical Society show guests what forces are shaping our current border. “These two pieces right here,” she said, “these are actually pieces from the Conex boxes that were used as part of the border wall.”

Before leaving, Fajardo showed KGUN9 what she said she feels is her favorite photo of this new exhibit. The time stamp is Dec. 1915, and a U.S. and Mexican soldier stand rifle’s length apart at a wooden border post in Douglas. Fajardo said perhaps it’s a microcosm of the relationship communities share in Southern Arizona and northern Mexico.

“Look (at) how drastically different culturally they are with their dress… it’s the literal line in the sand, is all that’s separating the two,” she said.

‘Shaping Arizona’ will open to museum guests on Tues. May 28. Visitors can explore the new artifacts and all the other exhibits in the museum Tues-Sat. from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The museum is at 949 E. Second St.