September 22, 2005
It has been said that good fences make good neighbors. And good fences also make for an interesting new exhibit at the Douglas County Museum and Cultural Center.
Built from either barbed wire, wood, iron, bricks, stones or hedges, fences have played a vital role in history and continue to have a major impact in modern society.
That is the important message the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit “Between Fences” wants visitors to learn.
“Between Fences” is the story of the settling of the United States and building of its communities. The exhibit depicts different types of fences, and includes why and where they were used and the materials needed to build them.
Five colorful and creative individual displays make up the exhibit.
“This exhibit provides a learning experience to show what a great part fences have played in the history of our country and Douglas County,” said Douglas County Historical Society exhibit committee member Laurie Hickey.
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“Fences can include or exclude people in the community. Fences are an extension of a home that protects territory and keeps livestock and crops apart.”
“Between Fences” exhibit was made possible in Gardnerville by the Nevada Humanities Council. It is part of “Museum On Main Street,” a collaboration between the Smithsonian and the Federation of State Humanities Councils. Support for “Museum On Main Street” has been provided by Congress.
Paul Starrs is a geography professor at the University of Nevada, Reno who assisted in installing the exhibit.
He said, “People have no idea how important fences are in our society. This exhibit will help explain that importance.”
Starrs said the first settlers who made the difficult voyage to America came here for the land.
“They get here, and the first thing they have to figure out is how to divide the readily available land,” said Starrs, adding that stones from plowed fields often served as fences in New England.
“Canyons and mountain ranges also served as natural fences. All kinds of fences serve as a real piece of Americana.”
Starrs said some people say Joseph Glidden’s invention of barbed wire in 1874 had much to do with “closing the range,” by restricting the range of cattle and limiting the responsibilities of cowboys.
“Was barbed wire responsible for the fall of the cowboy? Well, cowboys certainly didn’t want barbed-wire fences, and they don’t like getting off their horse to fix it,” he said.
Surrounding the exhibit are more than 100 judged color, black-and-white and youths’ photos from a “Between Fences” photo contest.
The gallery is enclosed by a white picket fence courtesy of Betty Cordes, who after many years recently tore down the fence surrounding her Gardnerville home.
To add a local flair to the traveling exhibit, the museum has opened in its nearby changing-exhibit room, which includes paintings by Janet Wass and a display by Irene Marshall that shows a variety of fence photos from around the Valley and country from the early 1900s to today.
“These new exhibits are a story about people and how fences help define them, their philosophies, lifestyles, values and beliefs,” Hickey said. “It’s well worth seeing.”
“Between Fences” will run through Oct. 23. Admission to the museum is $3.
If you go
WHAT: “Between Fences” exhibit
WHERE: Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center, 1477 Highway 395, Gardnerville
WHEN: Through Oct. 23; 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
WHY: The Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center will be the first in Nevada and among the first museums in the nation to be visited by the Smithsonian Institution exhibit
call: (775) 782-2555