Ben’s graduation started at 8 a.m. Saturday. With 2000 graduates walking, each receiving about 2 seconds of attention as their names were called in rapid succession, I calculated that the process would take at least an hour. Add on the commencement greeting, speeches, and farewells, then finding the graduates, taking photos, ect. and it was time for lunch. After lunch, we set off to visit a couple of museums in Reno, Carson City.
Our first stop was on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, for the Nevada Historical Society. The collection is displayed in a large room, divided into several sections. The artifacts cover the range of human activities in the state from the Paiute Indians to the miners and travelers on their way to California to the development of Reno. The presentations could be viewed in an hour, with time left for tempting oneself with another book to read along the trip. I held off on that temptation until the next museum.
We drove about a half hour south from Reno to Carson City, the capital of the state. Tom works for the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas. Carson City hosts the main museum in the historic Mint building and adjoining additions. The mint made gold and silver coins from the 1860’s until it’s closing in 1893. The coins minted here have the “CC” stamp for Carson City.
This museum has more extensive displays of the human activities as well as geology, birds and animals. We found the underground mine rooms and coin minting interesting and informative. We were hitting some time and energy limits, so we shall have to return some other time for a more thorough appreciation of the items displayed. The gift shop is well stocked with items of regional interest. I picked up one book of tales of a homesteader learning to survive from the Paiutes in the harsh environment of the Great Basin.
Sunday started at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. The museum is housed in a harsh black building that seems out-of-place among the earth tone colored casinos, pink and white wedding chapels, and dusty strip clubs. Maybe this is because a quality art museum with intriguing displays and Sunday jazz in the lobby is not what you expect to find here. It has several floors of galleries, ranging in size from spacious areas to odd corner rooms. Each had paintings, photographs, and light displays hung for comfortable viewing. Several of the rooms emphasized Nevada artists or artists who worked in this region, such as Ansel Adams. Other rooms hosted guest shows. Two engaged our attention for some time.
Chris Jordan has used digital photography to capture and then arrange images which initially appear to be pointillist arrangements from common objects. However, his titles provoke contemplation about how our consumption society uses resources. For instance one canvas is covered with the number of plastic soda bottle which we drain every day. These start as small images in the lower foreground of the picture, then recede into tiny dots on the horizon. We spent quite a while trying to find the repeated image within the picture and to figure our how he arranged so many bottles. Other images showed airplanes representing the number of flights per day, or folded prison uniforms for all the prisoners incarcerated in the US in a year, etc.
The other exhibit used computer controlled lights to create colors. Leo Villareal incorporates hundreds of LED lights on a dozen constructions. You can view these from a distance, but I found that if you draw as close as you can, such that you fill your visual field, the colors fill your consciousness for the moments you stay there. Do not do this if you get dizzy or have a seizure disorder. The security guards were a little leery of being this close too. Of course, after that, when you go to the mens-room, with the lime green painted walls, everything seems a bit distorted.
For contrast, we headed south, through Carson City again, to the Mormon Station in Genoa. This was the first Mormon settlement in Nevada (1851), and later one of the staging areas before crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains. We approached the town in a spring snow squall, watching the mountain peaks disappear into the clouds. Much of the town burnt down in a fire about a hundred years ago. A log fence and cabin have been reconstructed near where the original settlement was, and the historic Courthouse has been rebuilt as a museum. The fort would have been more enticing if we did not have the wind and snow sweeping down from the mountains, but we did a quick walk around.
The Courthouse Museum displays rooms with furnishing, artifacts, and many wall posters describing the settlement, routes to California, harsh living for the Washoe Indians and Mormons, and the Pony Express. The court room has been reconstructed upstairs and the jail downstairs. While informative of local history, this museum suffers from having too much to present in one space and too many spooky manikins around every corner. The gift shop had some more tempting books on the Pony Express, Mormon Trail, and crossing the Great Basin to California and Oregon. Those will have to wait for future trips. Genoa is a small cross roads. We found good soup and sandwiches across the street and several other unique gift and jewelry shops between the snow flakes before heading back to Reno. While we might have waited until we arrived in the Indian country, I found a Zuni Fetish that has Bella’s coloring, so I added that the to souvenirs.