Stewart Indian School Museum wins $250,000 historic preservation grant

A new era is about to start for the Stewart Indian School Museum, thanks to a $250,000 preservation grant announced Friday by President Bill Clinton.

The Save America's Treasures grant ends the days when the museum had to rely on the $20,000 in revenue from its trading post to run all the museum's activities for a year, museum director Sheila Abbe said.

"Stewart is coming back to life," Abbe said. "This is the beginning of a new, positive era for the entire community. "

The grant will allow the museum to add several more programs, expand the museum exhibitions and possibly lease and refurbish three more buildings at the former Stewart Indian School at the south end of Carson City.

The museum has license agreements for only three of the roughly 65 buildings at the Indian school that was closed in 1980. These three buildings are all near the entrance of the school grounds, now formally called the Stewart State Complex and owned by the state Division of Lands.

One building houses the museum, another the trading post and the third is the vacant, former administration building - the largest building near the entrance.

"We have earmarked getting license agreements for three more buildings at the entrance," Abbe said.

Abbe wrote a grant application asking for $350,000 but she was caught off-guard when she learned about the $250,000 award.

"Oh, my God!" Abbe exclaimed only minutes after learning about the receiving the grant. "I did not expect in our young history to get this type of award."

The Stewart Indian School Museum - formally called the Carson City Urban Indian Consortium Inc. - formed only 2 1/2 years ago. So far Abbe has only $1,000 cash in hand from the 11 successful grant applications she has written. These will ultimately give the museum nearly $500,000.

"This is 11 out of 11," Abbe said. "I have written 11 grants and I cannot believe we got this one."

President and Hilary Clinton founded the Save America's Treasures program in 1998 to help draw attention to the preservation and conservation needs of the deteriorating pieces of the nation's heritage.

More than 350 applicants have received $15 million under the program. Clinton announced the latest 47 grants Friday to projects in 31 states. The Stewart Indian School was the only Nevada recipient.

Grant applications were reviewed by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Library and Museum Services. They forwarded recommendations to experts in architecture, preservation, conservation and collections.

Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate all approved the recommendations.

Nevada's senators heartily welcomed the grant award for the Indian school that educated students from more than 200 tribes between 1890 and 1980.

"Portions of the Stewart Indian School have fallen into a sad state of disrepair and this funding will aid in the efforts to preserve this unique landmark," said U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"The Stewart Indian Boarding School is a deteriorating part of Nevada's heritage," U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., said. "Thankfully, the Save America's Treasures program has recognized the importance of preserving this site for future generations.

The Save America's Treasures grant is the largest yet for the museum. The second largest was a $93,000 grant from the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, Abbe said.

"We're going to restore buildings and put programs in them," Abbe said.

The Treasures grant will allow the museum to restore Building No. 1, the former administration building, which is the first building visitors see driving onto Stewart.

Abbe envisions transforming the administration building into a community center for meetings, a place for classes, a gallery for Native American art. She also wants to move the museum offices to Building No. 1 to free space in the museum, Building No. 3, for more exhibition space.

"Nobody's ever had the money to bring" No. 1 to a restored state," Abbe said.

If Abbe comes to a licensing agreement for three more buildings, the Treasures grant will allow the museum to add artisan workshops, quarters for artifact restoration, a visitor and information center for the entire Stewart complex, storage space, restrooms and parking.


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