Nevada’s Story Unfolds in Eclectic Array of Exhibits
Silver used aboard the U.S.S. Nevada, a recreated Indian village, a prehistoric fish, baskets, ball gowns, and the replica of an underground mine portray the state’s history.
Just a stone’s throw from Carson City’s largest casino, and not too much farther from the state capitol building, is one of the Silver State’s most impressive treasures. It’s called the Nevada State Museum.
The museum’s building has always been a treasure house. It was formerly the US Mint where the valuable Carson City gold and silver coins were made in the late 1880s (mint condition silver dollars from that time with the CC mark sell today for as much as $1;000).
Inside the two-story sandstone repository and two annexes built in 1959 and 1971, Nevada’s history is chronicled so expertly that the museum is considered one of the ten best small museums in the United States. Its stuffed animals, birds, and fish are testimony to taxidermy at its finest. A burro, laden with prospector’s gear, waits patiently to begin its trip into the hills. A yellow-bellied marmot spotted skunk and dozens of other native animals stand against backdrops of mesquite, sand, and sage. Among the mounted fish is the Cui ui. A sucker, the Cui ui is a living fossil of prehistoric Lake Lahontan and found only in Nevada’s Pyramid Lake northeast of Reno.
Native American Displays
Most impressive of the Indian displays is one incorporating lifesize figures in a re-created Indian camp. One woman nurses her baby. Another grinds pine nuts with a stone mortar and pestle while the third makes a fire. A young boy watches in fascination as an old brave fashions arrows. Entering camp is a younger brave who has been successful, for he carries two rabbits by the ears. Other outstanding Indian exhibits include the intricately-woven baskets of Dat So La Lee, queen of the Washo basket makers, as well as those of Washo, Paiute, and other tribes of the western United States.
For the modern-day back-to-basics person, there are displays that will have a special appeal. “Ten Steps to Making a Tule (bullrush) Boat” is one. Another is a natural-foods exhibit, with such edibles as screw beans, Indian ricegrass, and pine nuts. “The Deer — An Aboriginal Supermarket on the Hoof” illustrates all the necessities and luxuries of Indian life that came from that animal; among them, a grass cutter, skin pouch, hide string, and moccasins.
Many of the museum’s exhibits deal with Nevada life in the 19th Century. There are brands and cowboy gear, early-day gambling equipment, Virginia & Truckee Railroad memorabilia, and the massive silver punch bowls, tea services, and candelabrum used aboard the USS Nevada. In one gallery, “Women in Nevada” features mannequins dressed in period costumes and possessions which belonged to the more memorable of the state’s ladies. Another gallery features a life-size replica of a Nevada mining days ghost town just after it was deserted. The museum basement’s recreated mine is a favorite with youngsters as well as adults.
Since the museum is located on the main street running through Carson City, it’s easy to find. Museum hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years’. Admission is