PROGRESS: Museum’s new concourse expands exhibit space, improves accessibiltiy |

PROGRESS: Museum’s new concourse expands exhibit space, improves accessibiltiy

State Museum Director Jim Barmore says he thinks the proposed downtown economic development project would further enhance the value of the new glass and steel concourse connecting the museum’s two Carson Street buildings.

“It does sound like it has a pretty strong cultural education vision,” he said, noting that the project’s core includes a knowledge and discovery library.

The proposed $87 million public/private development project was presented to Carson City supervisors in early December.. It would be built on Carson Nugget land donated through the Hop and Mae Adams Trust.

Barmore said the concourse, named for former first lady Dema Guinn, not only unifies elements of the museum complex, it provides an excellent space for special events that might come with the proposed development.

He said earlier this year that the concourse exceeded his expectations, providing much better handicapped access, space to display large objects, space for special events and, probably most important, giving the museum complex an easily identifiable entrance.

“Nobody could find our front door,” he said. “Now people can find our entrance.”

The concourse was designed to look like a space-age version of an old Comstock mining head frame.

“It has become a centerpiece in town and really has added to our draw,” Barmore said. “It’s really tied everything together. Our curb appeal has improved so much.”

He said the ability to hold special events in the concourse – and not just museum-related events – is a key feature.

“This is a community center here,” he said. “People can use this.”

Barmore said the concourse is for rent by any area business and private groups, and any money raised goes to support the museum’s operations.

“It’s a very distinctive venue. It’s helping the museum in a time when we need all the help we can get,” he said, pointing out that his division suffered a 35 percent budget cut during the last Legislature.

One of the goals of the concourse project was to improve disabled access. He said the elevator in the concourse does that. But Barmore said there are still problems with the mine exhibit in the basement where the floors aren’t level enough to allow wheelchair access.

Until the concourse opened, he said the museum was unable to put some of its prized objects on display. Currently, the historic Basque sheepherder’s wagon is in the concourse. He said the museum has more than two million objects in its collections – some of them priceless historic pieces.

He said despite the economy, people are responding very strongly to help the museum system. He said the response to the annual fundraising drive “has been phenomenal.”