Officials at the Nevada State Museum are banking that the former First Interstate building will give them expanded office space and a home for the gift shop, additional storage and new exhibits by next summer.
Moving people and storage items to what will be called the Learning Center relinquish back to the museum about 1,000 square feet of exhibit space to display never-before-seen materials, said Mark Falconer, a museum facilities supervisor. But the capstone of the Learning Center will be a new exhibit called "Under One Sky," which will chronicle the history of Nevada's Native Americans. It will open in January or February 2001, just as the Legislature reconvenes.
"This will be very significant for this state and will be one of the better - most interesting - exhibits we've every put out," said Doug Mishler, division of museums and history administrator. "(Native American) culture went through such a transformation. Their lives have been altered. It's the museum's mission to preserve Nevada's past, but also to interpret it and teach people about it."
The exhibit will be housed in what was the front of the building, and will take up about 3,000 square feet of space.
The museum is coordinating with several tribes to ensure the exhibit gives as honest a representation as possible of Native American history. It will feature an archeological gallery for the scientific viewer and a room for creation stories to blend sciences and traditional views of Native American origins, said Curator of Anthropology Gene Hattori. The exhibit's centerpiece will be a life-sized marsh display similar to the desert display in the museum. Hattori said the marshlands and areas with water were crucial to early natives on economic and spiritual levels.
The exhibit details are still under discussion, but it will probably feature videos of Native American elders, artwork of native artists and a interactive gallery where children can learn about the native culture.
"It will provide all people with greater understanding of the Native Americans in this state, and their achievements," Hattori said.
Hattori said the idea to build the Native American culture display was influenced by Spirit Caveman, the mummified remains of a 9,000-year-old man found outside of Fallon. Spirit Caveman's origin and ownership remains controversial, so the museum can't display anything to do with him. Museum officials decided instead to build the Native American exhibit to add depth to the museum's displays.
Hattori said the exhibit will cost around $300,000 and while there is no funding for it. He said he is applying for grants. The 6,000-square-foot building's total overhaul will cost around $470,000, Falconer said, with $50,000 of that coming from the Carson City Redevelopment Authority for work on the building's faade. Contractors are removing asbestos from the building and the project should go out to bid in December or January.
The building's entrance will be on the south side facing the museum and the plaza. Eventually, the two buildings will be linked together with a walkway that will also be used for displays.
"Everybody on staff is excited about this project because of the growth and potential for us," Falconer said.