Nevada's First Archives Week

Gov. Kenny Guinn, proclaiming Oct. 24-31 "Archives Week in Nevada," invites "all Nevadans to explore their history over the Nevada Day week and to visit the various sites that house our documentary heritage."

I would invite people to take an archivist to lunch but I'll settle for them going to see the archival treasures in one of the many places around Nevada that house the archives. There are many archives in Nevada just as there are many libraries, but unlike libraries each archives is unique because each preserves a different history.

The state archives documents state government; county recorders and clerks keep the county archives; city clerks keep city archives; and even each Native American tribal government has a secretary and enrollment clerk to keep the tribal archives. Museums and historical societies also keep archives, and to some people's surprise, so do libraries.

Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing in the definition of archives that says "old." Archives collect personal papers, photographs, manuscripts, journals, government documents, maps, electronic media, oral recordings, film, and other materials contributing to Nevada's history; and they have the responsibility to provide the public with access to records. Not only do they keep old records, but they also collect current records that will be old to your children's grandchildren.

During Archives Week, many archives around the state want to show off their treasures.

Visit the Archives Week Treasure Map on our Web site at, click on the door of the museum, click on the city and see what archival treasures you can find.

More than 40 archives are exhibiting treasures from their archives about state history, local history, women's history and Native American history.

You'll find the original handwritten Nevada State Constitution of 1864 or the architectural drawings for the U.S. Mint in Carson City. In Elko you can see Temoke tribal history and photographs from the first Cowboy Poetry gathering. In Hawthorne you can see the first county ordinance restricting women's hours in saloons.

In Southern Nevada there are archival treasures on exhibit in Searchlight, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, including fascinating historical photos from the Las Vegas News Bureau. In East Ely you can see records of the Nevada Northern Railroad including a letter revealing that the FBI ordered all the railroads to fire Japanese Americans - a letter that led to their descendents winning more than $5 million in reparations.

Nevadans' interest in preserving the state's past goes back to its territorial days when the first legislature met in 1861 and instructed Isaac Roop of Susanville, former governor of the locally organized territory also called Nevada, to gather the historical records and present them to Governor James W. Nye.

Nye in turn gave them to Secretary of the Territory Orion Clemens (brother of the famous writer Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain) to keep with the other official records, including Carson County's records - the first records of government in Nevada.

These early records, even though they really belonged to Utah territory, were designated as "public records and archives of the territory." As their caretaker, Clemens was Nevada's first archivist. Under the newly adopted constitution in 1864, the Secretary of State became state archivist.

Although the Secretary of State kept many of the state's historical records, there was no official state archives until the Division of Archives was created in 1965.

Forty years after Nevada's admission to the Union in 1904, the Nevada Historical Society was organized in Reno. The State Museum was created in 1939. Other archives followed when in 1963 the University of Nevada Library created the Special Collections Department to gather together the Western American and manuscript collections into one place.

Nevada Southern University was also growing during the 1960s and established its own Special Collections and archives in the University library in 1966.

Visit the Web site, take the tour and if you are so inclined take an archivist to lunch.

Jeff Kintop is the State Archives Manager at the Nevada State Library and Archives. He can be reached at (775) 684-3410 or e-mail him at:


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