The Nevada State Museum Las Vegas continues to create innovative historical exhibits to pull people into the state’s rich and colorful past.
Recently, the museum was honored as the “best of the best” museum at the TMG Entertainment Network’s 25th Silver State Awards.
“The staff of the Nevada State Museum Las Vegas works hard to provide top-notch exhibits and quality programming for the public,” said Dennis McBride, museum director. “We’re very proud to have been recognized with a 2019 Silver State Award as ‘Best of the Best’ of Nevada museums.”
The Nevada State Museum Las Vegas first opened its doors at the historic Lorenzi Park in 1982. In 2011, it moved to its current location on the Las Vegas Springs Preserve.
The 70,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility features permanent and temporary exhibits that tell the story of the Silver State, from early prehistoric times through early settlers and influencers to the rise of Las Vegas as the entertainment capital of the world.
Not long after McBride was named director in spring of 2012, he proposed the idea of what would become Curator’s Canyon. They took what was a bland hallway space between the permanent and temporary galleries and redesigned it to resemble a craggy canyon with weathered rock walls and a sandy desert floor.
“It was unused space and I thought it would be fun if museum visitors had something to see as they wandered back and forth between the galleries,” McBride said.
That empty space blossomed into the Curator’s Canyon with exhibit items from the museum’s collections that wouldn’t ordinarily be seen as part of larger and more elaborate exhibits.
“I also wanted the curators themselves to have an opportunity to create their own micro-exhibits from items each of them manages in their respective purviews,” McBride said.
There are cases for the Natural History Curator, the Curator of History and Collections, the Curator of Costume and Textiles, the Curator of Manuscripts as well as McBride’s. What they choose to display in their cases, how they approach their exhibit, how they design and install it is entirely up to each curator.
“I wanted these curator’s cases so that we could recognize our donors publicly by naming them in the cases, to say thank you for what they’ve given us – and maybe inspire museum visitors to donate if they see the variety and scope and importance of what we collect and that we appreciate them,” McBride said.
The exhibits in the Canyon Gallery include “Beastly Fashion,” which offers an historical look at fashion accessories that feature design elements created from animal life. The “Tortoise: It’s What’s for Dinner” exhibit details how the desert tortoise was a food and utilitarian resource for the indigenous peoples of Southern Nevada. “Declaration of Intention – 1916” showcases the government immigration information form that was one of the first steps for immigrants becoming U. S. citizens from 1898 through 1954. The “Nancy Williams Baker: From Dance to Design” reveals the longtime local designer’s journey from dancer at the El Rancho Vegas Hotel and Casino in 1948 to owner of the world-renowned Williams Costume Company, which closed when she died in 2017. The “Helen Herr” exhibit is about the first woman elected to the Nevada State Senate, and the second woman from Clark County elected to the Nevada State Assembly and includes photographs, news clippings, political ephemera, and the desk and chair she used in the Nevada State Assembly.
The massive “Roulette: Treasures from the Richard and Nancy Greeno Collection.” includes a variety of everyday objects that feature roulette iconography: match books; jewelry; children’s toys; liquor bottles; travel games; fashion accessories and more.
“With more than 8,000 pieces, it’s perhaps the largest such collection in the country,” McBride said.
A “Vegas Vic” installation by McBride is planned for early summer.
“I wanted each of them to have the opportunity to express themselves individually and creatively – and they’ve done a great job,” he said. “It took some years before we finally got the Canyon Gallery with its curators’ cases up and going, but it’s been a very successful endeavor.”
The Nevada State Museum Las Vegas is located at 309 S. Valley View Blvd., Las Vegas. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
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