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Museum adapts to new coronavirus

by Joan Whitely


Say ‘so long’ - for a while at least - to using one of the most popular hands-on exhibits at Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas: the guest-operated hand-car.

Part of the permanent display on Las Vegas’ role as a railroad watering stop, the beloved hand-car allows young guests to work off some steam and prove their muscle power. But it’s touched many times a day, which attracts germs. (Bye bye for the time being, too, to using the rotary dial in the old-fashioned telephone booth near the rotunda.)

To get the museum ready for public reopening, its staff is evaluating all galleries, according to Mary Beth Timm, acting director. “We are removing smaller, touchable items in anticipation of a more conservative public,” she said. Larger items may be cordoned off.

The entire “Eclectic Nevada” exhibit - designed to maximize interaction - also must be revised for safe public use during the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes the wall panel that guests rub to determine the softness or bristly quality of various fur pelts from species common to Nevada. The Friends underwrote that panel, since the costly skins went beyond the museum’s limited exhibit budget.

pelt display
Friend Carol Swearingen, at left, discusses pelt characteristics with another guest at “Eclectic Nevada” opening.

Ditto for the tin-can-with-string experiment in communications, the floor puzzle of Nevada counties, the shake-able model of a rattlesnake’s rattle, and the LV Strip model with icons representing present and bygone casinos - all of which have made “Eclectic” a huge hit with students on field trips.

Also, the state will no longer fund transportation for fourth-grade classes to visit their nearest state museum. That’s for several reasons.

First, our reopened museum will not initially accept groups greater than 10 people. Second, Timm said, the state is reducing budgets for most state agencies in the new fiscal year, which starts in July, due to the loss of revenues from casinos and tourists.

Third, the local public-school district has indicated field trips will be a low priority as it slowly retools its yearly procedures. And that is fortunate for the Friends, too - we don’t need to immediately start raising bus funds again for field trips. If you weren’t aware, our original Museum Bus Buddies program led to the statewide field trip program.

Sarah Hulme, a museum representative, said that because the museum’s pandemic-induced hiatus from public visits opened time for staff to work on redesigning the exhibits. It also allowed staffers to research and submit grant applications that otherwise might not have been so thoroughly prepared. The museum is a government agency Hulme said, so it may work with the Friends to apply for certain pandemic-related grants that are open only to private, non-profit groups.

sofa photo
The round casino sofa in museum gallery’s gaming section will be removed. It resembles sofas in this vintage photo of a Goldfield hotel lobby.

Although the Las Vegas museum lost an asset when Director Dennis McBride retired in April, it’s good news that the museum is in the good hands of Timm, who has an advanced degree in anthropology. She is temporarily heading both the state’s Las Vegas museum and its Lost City Museum in Overton, where she is permanent director.

The Friends have no word on the timing for reopening the Las Vegas museum or naming its next permanent director.

Restaurant Night Out

On May 12, we completed our first restaurant dine out with Café Zupas on West Lake Mead. Although our turnout from Members and their friends wasn't as much as we had hoped, the Friends netted $96.56 as our share of the money spent by people who mentioned the Friends fundraiser. All of those who participated that we talked to commented on the good food and the reasonable prices. Café Zupas focuses on healthy soups, salads, and sandwiches. We would like to thank everyone who participated. Our fundraising has suffered setbacks because of the quarantine, so our income for the last two months has been very small. Thus, we appreciate anyone who participated so we could generate money to pay for ongoing and committed expenses.

Because of the food quality, service, and ease to work with, we have decided to have another dine out night with Café Zupas. This event will be on Tuesday, June 16, at the Café Zupas restaurant located at 5758 Centennial Center Blvd 89149.

Note that the location is different. Hopefully, this location is better suited to more of our members. You can order by phone, online, or on site (drive through). Delivery is also available through Grub hub and others. Tell your family and friends. Let's have a great turnout! Just mention the Friends Fundraiser when you order. If you order online, enter the code "FUNDRAISERS25".

dance photo
Your official invite to our next Restaurant Night Out.

Friends ‘Zoom’ their May General Meeting

by Joan Whitely

Seventeen adventurous souls joined the Friends’ May 21 general meeting, its first ever held online. Our guest speaker, Alisha Kerlin, walked us through the origin and mission of the Barrick Museum of Art. [Note that the Barrick Museum is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.]

Located on the UNLV campus, the Barrick Museum charges no admission and holds an extensive program of exhibits and events each year.

“Some people think we’re backed by Barrick Gold (company), and that’s not true,” Kerlin said. Namesake Marjorie Barrick was a local philanthropist married to Edward Barrick, a part owner in several casinos downtown and on the Strip during the '60s and ‘70s.

Originally developed as a museum of natural history, the Barrick’s first step toward the arts came in 1979, when the Braunstein family made a donation of pre-Columbian art objects. Then in 1986 came its first exposition of contemporary art, consisting of works by prominent local artist and then UNLV art professor Rita Deanin Abbey. When the Las Vegas Art Museum was forced to close in 2009 due to the Great Recession, the Barrick became the recipient of that museum’s prestigious art holdings.

In 2011 the Barrick’s existence was threatened when it lost state funding. However, it concentrated on the arts, and has thrived since then. In 2012 it became part of the UNLV College of Fine Arts.

skate park art
Artist Andrew Schoultz agreed to do a show at the Barrick in 2018 on the condition that he be permitted to do a piece of public art. The result was this skate park near the Winchester Cultural Center.

Today the Barrick is devoted to art representing all disciplines. It holds dance performances designed in response to an art movement or show. It holds poetry readings, film screenings, musical performances, as well as photography, painting, and other cultural community events.

dance photo
UNLV dance professor Louis Kavouris led a small troupe in choreography designed as response to 2017 Barrick exhibit, “Masking.”

Like the Friends of Nevada State Museum Las Vegas - which in 2016 launched its bus program to bring fourth-graders at Title 1 elementary schools to learn more about state history at our museum - the Barrick in 2017 launched its field-trip bus program, which serves children at at-risk schools, from kindergarten to Grade 12.

dance photo
Barrick Museum’s present ceiling - which makes for great concert acoustics - is no more iconic than the floor at one of its prior UNLV locations. a repurposed gym. Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret recorded a dance number for “Viva Las Vegas” in 1963 at the gym.

Kerlin, who came from New York City to Las Vegas in 2012 for an eight-week teaching residency, joined the Barrick that same year, helping organize exhibits for its rebirth as an art museum. In 2016 she became its interim director, and then permanent director in 2019. She led the Barrick in its 50th anniversary celebration in 2017.

For best parking, Kerlin recommends attending museum events held after 6 p.m. or on weekends, when student demand is less. She recommends entering the campus via the segment of Harmon Avenue on the western end of campus. That segment of Harmon dead-ends next to the Barrick Museum of Art.



To see the complete schedule for the year, please go to our Events page.

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