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State museum awaits green light to open

The Nevada State Museum is in a state of limbo, waiting for the green light to open its new downtown location.

The 70,000-square-foot property is nestled in the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd.

It isn't open to the public yet. Most of the exhibits are up and running, but there are no artifacts. Those are still being moved from the current location down the road.

The museum's fate rests in the hands of Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Legislature. Until then, not much can be done aside from prepping the new building and moving artifacts, which cover the entire state's history and natural history -- a first for Nevada.

"We could be ready, assuming the budget is there and we had enough staff," said David Millman, museum director. "We could probably open late summer or early fall, assuming that everything falls into place."

In an ideal world, that means enough money to keep the air conditioning on and pay the minimum number of people needed to run the museum, which has doubled in size.

Admission isn't being charged at the Lorenzi Park location because Millman said he doesn't believe it's fair to charge people full price for a half-full museum.

"People can go to the gift shop and the library and see what's left, but there's going to be continually diminishing exhibits over there," he said. "I couldn't charge people for that."

At some point, all of the exhibits from the museum's current location, 700 Twin Lakes Drive, will be inside of the new Springs Preserve building. Millman could not say if closing the museum until legislators make a decision to move forward was a possibility.

"That's the same as saying, 'When are you going to open?' " Millman said. "That's really out of our hands. If we are able to gain enough support in the session to open on a minimum level or a regular level, but it's a guess. We don't know. We could probably open the building but not for more than a couple of days per week. It's twice as big and twice as complex. We have one security guard, and I scrub the toilets here because somebody has to do it."

A tour inside of the building shows its near- readiness. There are exhibits about mining, which includes a life-size version of a Comstock structure, a key to Nevada's history in becoming a state. Interactive pieces provide children with train-car experience. When children pump the cart, it starts a video in which they learn about how the carts were used. Also, a ghostly version of Henry Comstock, the namesake of the mining structure, appears to discuss his role in mining and how it helped shape the Silver State.

Another exhibit covers federal influences throughout the state, including the Hoover Dam and the Nevada Test Site. The original bell from the USS Nevada rests on the floor. It survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor and nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

A glittery-pink sequin-esque backdrop gives the classic Las Vegas feel by including showgirls outfits. Inside the Las Vegas exhibit, people can sit on a round red and yellow lounge couch and watch four giant television screens that play different film clips from Rat Pack performances to Elvis Presley's wedding and everything in between. Pieces for Helldorado and organized crime also are featured.

Daniel Huard, construction engineer with the Las Vegas Valley Water District, said the facility gained storage space because of the design process. There also are a couple of meeting rooms that can be rented out. A community room large enough to hold a siz able wedding reception can be rented, too . A landing attached to the room overlooks the Springs Preserve property and allows people to walk outside for a breathtaking view of the Strip.

"This museum is more about where we were and where we are going," Huard said.

In the depths of the museum storage underbelly are climate-controlled rooms to preserve the artifacts.

"These artifacts belong to the state and to everybody," Millman said. "We have a duty to take care of them forever. ... We'll be happy when this opens. It's great for the community, and Las Vegas needs rooted institutions like this to educate people."

Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at or 383-0492.