Chamber News & Views: Two additional museums could further tell story of Carson City

The word history for many elicits a yawn. Could be that having to memorize all those dates, battles, and early settlers taught by uninspired teachers at a time when our attention spans tended to wander was the basis for our disinterest. Maybe we teach history too early?

I know that I was once one of those bored students who would rather have been anywhere else than in history class. The past for a 12 year old doesn’t go beyond about five years and talking about something that happened a hundred or so years ago is just not relative.

Fortunately, we as we grow older, we grow into wanting to know about the history of our community, our state and the country as a whole. We have more experience under our belts and some want to make history as well. Every politician creates a line in the history books. These days, every writer is a historian of sorts. Even those who are addicted to writing on Facebook create a bit of history.

The preservation of our past defines our future. The author Maya Angelou wrote, “The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.”

Carson City is full of wonderful and colorful history found not only by walking the 2.5 mile Kit Carson Trail, but in our two primary museums.

The Nevada State Museum is located in the heart of the downtown on the site of the former U.S. Mint and has been expanded over the years to include many permanent and rotating exhibits defining not only the history of our City, but that of Nevada. Enter into a ghost town and exit through a mine. This museum is anything but boring.

The Nevada State Railroad Museum just at the south edge of the downtown is full of wonderful rolling stock once part of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad that was so important to the success of the Comstock. On special weekends, much of this amazing rolling stock can be seen and ridden. Train buffs from all over the United States come to view the beautifully restored engines and cars, and we are pleased to report that Mayflower Cruises and Tours has include the train museum in their tour package for 2019. Kids love to ride on the trains during special times of the year, for unlike those who may ride trains daily on the east coast, trains are no longer part of our landscape, thereby they are even more special.

Just rededicated is the free museum on the second floor of our state capitol. It’s a journey through our political history where once the entire government was run in this one building: Upstairs housed the Assembly on the left, Senate on the right and the Supreme Court in the middle. Just walking through the capitol gives one such a sense of history.

I am always amazed at how few residents have taken the time to learn more about their community through visiting these two world-class museums or even the capitol. The price is certainly affordable for the state museums and kids under 17 are admitted free with parents to enjoy a fascinating bit of the past.

Two future museums in the making – so we hope – and so important to our history would be the repurposing of the Nevada State Prison into a museum and the revitalization of the former Stewart Indian School to tell the tale of those who were forced to attend such a school. These two future museums would further define who we were and become a further reason for visitors to spend time and dollars here. More importantly, it would further define “us!”

Dedicated volunteers have been slowly and steadily working to gain the necessary permits and permissions to allow the prison gates to open to visitors and be used on special occasions. Can’t you just imagine an Halloween event within the prison walls?

It’s been a long and arduous process and lots of money has been spent to date to convince state government this would be the highest and best use of this ancient prison so full of history and amazing stories. So much more is needed – both in dollars and in influence – before this landmark can be made it another historic site.

The Stewart Indian School has many tales to tell and is telling them through the voices of those who attended the school. Just use your cell phone to listen to the tales as you park in front of the various buildings. Neglected over the years, today the stone buildings are slowly being revitalized to add to our history book. When attending the annual Father’s Day Pow Wow at the school, one becomes more aware of our Native American heritage and what this school meant to those forced to attend.

Much of Carson City’s history has been lost due to the demolition of buildings that once defined us and that is why museums are so important in keeping our history alive.

Today, take time to tour the Nevada State Museum, the Capitol Museum and the NV State Railroad Museum to journey into the past for just a few hours. Admission is free today. When guest comes to town, direct them to our historic museums. And, on those long winter days, what better place to browse and while the day away than at one of the museums many of us have never taken the time to visit.


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