Peter Barton: Carson City, state shaped by heritage at Nevada State Museum

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Some say a community’s character is shaped by its past. Carson City is beginning a new chapter with the walkable streetscape being unveiled this month. When you’re out and about, we encourage you to visit the Nevada State Museum, just down the street in the iconic U.S. Branch Mint building, celebrating Nevada’s history for 75 years. Our heritage lives here.

We extend a special community welcome with free admission to the museum from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday as part of our celebration.

When our museum opened on Oct. 31, 1941, the Capitol grounds drew people to the nearby shops, restaurants, businesses and casinos. It was a place of politics, picnics and purpose. With the museum’s debut, record crowds filled the halls to examine the state’s past and imagine its future.

For 75 years the Nevada State Museum has served the Silver State as the trusted steward of its history, a sentinel in the heart of the community, an innovator in the development of effective informal learning, preserving and promoting our shared history for students, citizens and travelers from around the globe. It came about as the inspiration of District Court Judge Clark Guild, who, one Sunday morning while out for a walk past the long-shuttered Mint, made it his mission to use this special spot. He raised $5,000 to purchase the Mint and built the community support that was the museum’s foundation. Judge Guild dedicated his later life to the museum and was active in its development until his passing in 1971.

Today, with thousands of artifacts, story-driven exhibits and environments, events and educational programs, the museum is at the community’s heart. The underground mine is familiar to just about every fourth-grader who has come to town and the Under One Sky exhibit of the region’s American Indian culture speaks to Native and European perspectives. Nevada’s railroad, geologic, anthropologic, archeologic and natural history shine in their space at the museum for the enrichment of all generations.

Perhaps one of the most famous of the state’s possessions is the original Coin Press No. 1, bought for $225 and returned to the museum in 1958. The U.S. Mint operated from 1870 to 1893, pressing coins of Nevada silver and serving the mining industry to help build the American West. Its rare and precious products are among the most valued and collectible coins in the world.

Sustaining museums is increasingly difficult in a time of ever demanding budgets. We depend on wonderful sponsors, supporters and volunteers who offer their financial gifts, time and talents to perpetuate our treasured place in Carson City. Our 75th anniversary is a time to say thank you, Carson City, and welcome.

To honor the anniversary, the historic Coin Press No. 1 will strike special commemorative medallions, some made of Nevada silver, which will be on sale beginning Friday. Other activities include a ceremonious cutting of a cake designed and prepared by Carson High School’s culinary students and behind the scenes tours to give a peek at the enormous museum collections and gain an understanding of what it takes to propel this accredited institution forward. Raffles throughout the day, special guest McAvoy Layne as Mark Twain, Boy and Girl Scout guides and fun activities for families and children will make the day historic fun. Please visit and be an active participant in our heritage.

Peter Barton is division administrator of the Nevada Division of Museums and History.


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