Nevada State Museum set to start work on neighboring FIB building

The former First Interstate Bank building in Carson City will soon start taking on the look of a new Nevada State Museum annex.

By the end of August, an almost $1 million renovation should begin on the bank building, which will became the showcase for a new changing gallery for the museum.

A new exhibit could be in place by February with the gallery's first major exhibit - "Under One Sky" - penciled in for an October 2001 opening, museum director Jim Barmore said.

"This will bring the museum up to national standards," Barmore said.

Once the annex opens, the Nevada State Museum will have a complex three times the size of its footprint just two years ago. The museum grounds will include the former U.S. Mint, the old FIB building and the lawn plaza between the two buildings that sits where Caroline Street used to run until April 1999.

"It will provide some visibility for the department that lets the community see what we're all about," said Michael Hillerby, director of the Nevada Department of Museums, Library and Arts.

The bank's brick archway will give way to a portico similar but smaller than the portico at the main entrance of the mint. The design will also replicate the sandstone facade of the mint on the lowest portions of the bank walls.

The state acquired the bank property for $1.375 million in November 1997. First National Bank, later First Interstate Bank, built the structure in 1959, but it has stood empty since 1993.

"The foundation itself is very sound," said Mark Falconer, the state museum's facilities supervisor. "It's a very sound building. It's a great shell to work with."

The bank's cavernous interior is tailor-made for museum exhibition area.

"From a gallery standpoint, it's really nice," Barmore said. "What you want is an empty box."

The museum will use the 20-foot ceiling in the front third as gallery space. The new 2,200-square-foot changing gallery will be four or five times as large as the changing gallery inside the mint building.

Barmore said the gallery will have modern design features such as interactive computers, a theater, a children's area and possibly fiber optic exhibit lighting that illuminates the displays well without heat problems inherent in older technology.

"This is showing what we want to do and can do," Barmore said. "This will be a model of what we want to do for long-term exhibits (in the mint building)."

The rear two-thirds of the bank building will have two floors. Downstairs will feature the museum gift shop, a meeting/break room for the volunteer docents, and the existing bank vault will stay in place as a secure storage area for the museum's most valuable items.

Upstairs will feature a few firsts for the state museum. There will be a climate controlled storage area dedicated to the history collection and there will be a work room for researchers - both significant advances for the Nevada State Museum.

Historic items not on display are now stored willy-nilly throughout the museum, wherever there is space. Researchers now have to work in the history office with museum staff.

The gift shop will move out of its obscure nook at the back of the state museum and to a prominent location in the annex. The new shop will be much larger and have a direct entrance from the parking lot to allow people to visit the gift shop without having to pay the museum admission.

"People like to shop," said Barmore, hinting that it makes sense to have easy access to the gift shop because it provides revenue for the museum.

Construction should be finished by early January with a yet-to-be determined traveling exhibit in place by February.

The annex's first major exhibition will follow several months later. "Under One Sky" will explore the Native American history from 11,000 years ago to the present day.

The museum is working closely with most tribes in Northern Nevada with plans to involve Carson City's other museums to assemble "Under One Sky."

"This is a modern way of telling the story," Hillerby said. "It's not the white anthropologist telling the story of the Indians."

The exhibit will also involve the library and arts components of the Department of Museums, Library and Arts.

"It's really an opportunity for us to showcase what the department is about," Hillerby said. "This is a chance to pull all the resources together for a monumental exhibit."


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