Museums are free on Saturday, but there are other good reasons to visit, too | NevadaAppeal.com
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Museums are free on Saturday, but there are other good reasons to visit, too

Barry Ginter

As a student, I always dreaded any type of math class, but history was another story.

Maybe it was because I had talented history teachers, or maybe it was just because I could let my imagination run free without being accused of daydreaming. As I listened, I could feel the stinging cold in the air during the crossing of the Potomac, or the despair of hearing the president had been assassinated; I could hear the screams of the wounded at Appomattox, or the prayers of soldiers in the landing craft headed for the Normandy beaches.

So I was saddened to hear Peter Barton lament over the declining importance of history education in schools. As we talked on Thursday, Peter, the acting administrator of the Nevada Division of Museums and History, explained that history falls far below math, science and English when it comes to the No Child Left Behind Act. And schools, which are judged by students’ performance on standardized tests, understandably put their resources into those subjects.

Peter has seen the results in the state’s annual history competition each spring, for which he serves as a judge. Fewer students are taking part and, overall, their presentations have declined in quality.

“There’s not the interest there once was,” he said.

That’s an interesting trend to most, but to a museum administrator, it’s a call to arms. “We’ve got to up the ante, if you will, in the way we present content,” he said.

It means that museums have to find new ways to interest students, and to show them that history is not about remembering dates and names.

“It’s really about stories about people,” he said. “History is about learning not to make the same mistakes.”

So the challenge is to breathe life into the static artifacts that museums are traditionally associated with. An arrowhead in a glass case just doesn’t cut it anymore. Children, who are never far from the stimulation provided by television and the Internet, expect nothing less.

For a museum, Peter said, that is an exciting challenge, and they are rising to meet it with multi-media displays and other techniques … “any way to engage the senses.”

“We have to do that if we’re going to succeed and be relevant and sustainable.”

While the numbers have declined, thousands of students still walk through the museums each year on field trips, and Peter and other museum staff want to make sure they remember what they see. The state’s museums have already begun that process. There are interactive displays at the Nevada State Museum, and big changes will come to the railroad museum, too, which already has among the most impressive displays of equipment anywhere.

I hope you’ll find out for yourself on Saturday during the Nevada Day festivities. Both museums are open from 8:30-4:30 p.m. and admission is free for adults (for students it’s free any day).

For a while now, I’ve been encouraging Maizie Harris Jesse to use her considerable cultural and epicurean talents to write a local restaurant column for the Nevada Appeal. But, honestly, I never intended her first entry to be about hospital food.

Such was the situation she found herself in on Tuesday. Maizie, who, along with Carolyn Tate, writes the Nobody Asked Us column for Thursday’s Entertainment page, awoke to a fast and erratic heartbeat and heavy pressure in her chest.

Did she call 911 as she clearly should have? No. But at least she called the hospital and, fortunately, the nurse there told her to do so immediately. Within minutes, Maizie was on a gurney in an ambulance on the Way to Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, where she remains as of this writing.

The good news is that doctors tell her she’ll be just fine, and she’s hopeful she’ll be discharged today. Maizie and Carolyn have plenty of fans, and some called on Thursday after noticing their column was missing. Among them was Francis Davis, who looks forward to their column every Thursday. “If I can’t have at least a laugh a day, it’s a bad day,” she said.

Many others probably heard the news from a conversation or phone call. After all, Maizie has lived here since 1962 and has been involved in so many activities and causes that she’s probably met almost everyone in town. She founded the Proscenium Players in 1965, which now has the distinction of being the second longest continuously operating theater group in the state. Her family’s presence in Carson City, in fact, can be traced back to the city’s earliest years, in the 1860s.

Maizie is in good spirits, and described the glorious view out her window, overlooking Silver Oak Golf Course and the mountains beyond.

And as for her review of that hospital food? It’s excellent, with one exception: She’s been put on a no-salt, no-sugar diet, and any chef would have a difficult time under those restraints. Still, “they had a good omelet for breakfast this morning,” she said, and the meatloaf wasn’t bad, either (the red pepper made up for the lack of salt).

Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at 881-1221, or via e-mail at bginter@nevadaappeal.com