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The barn: A great cathedral

Kelli Du Fresne

The Smithsonian name may be the attraction, but in Nevada the barns are the show.

“Barn Again” a traveling exhibit, part of the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum on Main Street program, opens today in the lobby of the Nevada State Library and Archives along with “Sagebrush Vernacular: Rural Architecture in Nevada,” a black-and-white photography exhibit on barns throughout the state.

Stephen Davis, assistant director of the Nevada Humanities Committee, likened the traveling exhibit to a three-legged stool. The exhibit, inspired by the Smithsonian, combines the Smithsonian’s exhibit with the statewide photo display and community-inspired showings. Two of the the three elements will make seven stops throughout Nevada joining with each community exhibit between today and Nov. 18.

Photos from places such as Panaca, Owyhee, Eureka, Logandale, Jiggs, Elko and several other Nevada locales help to remind viewers of the state’s ranching and agricultural heritage.

The Owyhee Horse Barn can be seen in photos of the stone structure and a bit of its history, as told by Shoshone elder Earl Crum, tells the barn was built in about 1936 out of native stone by Hopi Indians brought in from Arizona. Crum said horses and cows were kept in the barn with a bullpen and stock corral nearby.

In addition, communities throughout Nevada have created exhibits to celebrate the barn — “a witness to a century of change.”

The Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center has created a year-long program on valley barns that includes construction of a 23-by-15-by-15-foot barn.

“We spent the summer going around and picking up all the old lumber,” said Lois Thran, one member of the center’s exhibit committee who was at the Library and Archives Wednesday for instruction on how to set up the Smithsonian’s traveling display. She and other members of her committee will set up the exhibit when it gets to Carson Valley in August.

On Friday, their exhibit “Dairies of Carson Valley” will open.

The committee built the barn, tore it down and put it back together. The barn is big enough to hold five stalls — a tack room, storage room, sheep shed, feed room and shop — and will open to the public Feb. 15.

“It took 1-1/2 hours to take the barn from the stack out back, put it on a trailer and get it moved around and in to the front door,” Shirley Jones said.

Jones, Thran and committee Chairwoman Irene Marshall are Carson Valley natives. The trio has help from Ellen Caywood, Jesse Bower and “a lot of help from the community,” Marshall said.

“It really makes it special to have them,” Marlena Hellwinkle said. “They really put their heart and soul into it.”

The heart and soul from communities across the state are what makes the exhibit.

“The Smithsonian name may attract people’s attention,” said Carol Harsh, director of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program. “It is through the community exhibits that people really identify with their local heritage — see their part in this national story. We are just one leg of it.”

Tamara Woods, of Logandale, worked alongside Harsh, Thran, Marshall and others from Fallon and Reno in preparing the “Barn Again” exhibit for today’s opening.

Harsh said the “exhibit primer” helps bring people together from small museums in rural communities across the state.

“In the small museums they are focused on what’s best for their community, but sometimes there is this sense of isolation. This allows them to begin to network.”

In Logandale, the Old Logandale School Historic and Cultural Center has plans for demonstrations on butter churning, making beeswax candles, soap, separating milk, making cottage cheese and whey.

“A lot of the things happened when you didn’t have the resources we have now. Where you were self sufficient. What you could produce is what you survived on,” Woods said.

Logandale, about 65 miles northeast of Las Vegas, began in 1865 as a stop on the Mormon Trail between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. It existed as an agricultural community until the California produce markets put the farmers out of business, Woods said.

IF YOU GO

What: “Barn Again and Sagebrush Vernacular: Rural Architecture in Nevada”

Where: Nevada State Library and Archives

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Cost: Free

What: Grand opening, “Dairies of Carson Valley”

When: Friday through Aug. 8

Where: Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center, 1477 Highway 395 N., Gardnerville

Why: Part of the year-long series of activities related to the Barn Again program.

Call: 782-2555

Nevada Barn Again exhibit schedule

today – Feb. 6

Nevada State Library and Archives, 110 N. Stewart St.

Feb. 19 – March 31

Old Logandale School Historic and Cultural Center, Logandale

April 8 – May 15

Las Vegas Springs Preserve, Las Vegas

May 27 – June 30

Churchill County Museum, Fallon

July 4 – Aug. 11

Bartley Ranch Park, Reno

Aug. 19 – Sept. 29

Carson Valley Museum, 1477 Highway 395 North, Gardnerville

Oct. 7 – Nov. 18

Western Folklife Center, Elko

Quote from “Sagebrush Vernacular: Rural Architecture in Nevada”

Standing in a large and historic barn has much in common with being inside a great cathedral. The vastness and volume of the space, coupled with the quality of light, elicits a sublime sense of fear and wonder. The aroma of hay and cattle is the incense that completes the experience.