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State Museum revamping exhibits

by Susie Vasquez

The woolly mammoth isn’t moving and the ghost town will be left intact, but a number of exhibits will be updated and overhauled at the Nevada State Museum. The changes are part of a $2 million project that includes everything from retrofitting the old Carson City Mint for the disabled to sprucing up the building’s exterior.

Those who want to see the bird and American Indian exhibits the old way are advised to do so before Jan. 5.

“We have to start removing the exhibits so we can be ready for the asbestos removal, within the month,” said Jim Barmore, museum director. “We’ll have to take the cases out. We may be putting some of them back, but we’ll be redesigning the floor plan.”

Barmore said most of the museum’s exhibits, about 80 percent, will not be affected. Treasures, like the mine that opened in the early 1950s, won’t be touched. “Generations have enjoyed it,” Barmore said. “The USS Nevada silver service is staying and there are plans to make it better by displaying more USS Nevada battleship relics.

“It’s about continuity versus change,” he said. “A lot of people love the old exhibits because they don’t change, but I know what magic the staff can do.”

The bird gallery, on the other hand, has been criticized for being static and out-of-date, Barmore said.

“We do visitor surveys, to find out what people want and like,” Barmore said. “Some don’t like the stuffed animals.”

The complex series of projects will be completed over the next few years. The effort started with the Legislature’s approval of $2 million in capital improvement funds in 2003.

The total cost of the project hasn’t been calculated, Barmore said.

The renovation started weeks ago with the transfer of some administrative offices. The exhibit work will start Jan. 5 and the whole job should be completed by June 2005, Barmore said.

Basic preservation work like a new roof, restoration of window sills and replacement of broken glass are scheduled for the Mint and to address access issues for the handicapped, drinking fountains and exhibit cases will be brought into compliance.

“For people in wheelchairs, many of the exhibit cases are too high,” Barmore said. “We also have an HVAC system, (heating and air conditioning) that’s exceeded its life expectancy by a number of years.”

Many of the American Indian exhibits, including the dioramas about American Indian life, the artwork of Washoe basket weaver Dat-So-La-Lee and the camp scene, will move to Under One Sky, the long-term American Indian exhibit housed just north of the main building.

“When visitors go to the balcony above the origins theater at Under One Sky, they’ll be looking at the camp scene,” Barmore said. All of the aforementioned except restoration of the camp scene are included in phase one of a two-part project.

Phase two includes a new main entrance with handicapped accessibility on the north side of the main building, metal reinforcement throughout the main building’s attic and opening up the cupola at the top of the Mint, Barmore said.

Gardnerville architect Robert Oxoby has been contracted to create a design for the improvements during phase one, but money for the construction will come with phase two.

Officials will approach the Legislature for more funding once phase one has been completed, said Evan Dale, deputy manager of administration for the Public Works Board.

“We assume the State will participate in phase two,” Barmore said. “But we’re hoping to tap into the private sector for support, to finish the project.”

Contact Susie Vasquez at svasquez@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.