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Museum address:
309 S. Valley View Blvd., LV, 89107
inside Springs Preserve

You Are Invited to our Holiday Potluck!

Come join your Friends friends at our annual Holiday Potluck. Bring something to share and, of course, bring lots of cheer!

potluck invite

This Museum Rocks Rocked!

This Museum Rocks

The Special Events Room at the museum was transformed into an elegant setting for This Museum Rocks! on November 17. This was an extravaganza about Nevada mining, rocks, gems, fossils, and jewelry. It featured presentations by the museum team, including displays of museum artifacts ranging from mining equipment to rhinestone jewelry.

Pam Prim discussed formation of silver and turquoise. She remarked that the creation of shades of turquoise was like "baking chocolate chip cookies." More iron shifts the color toward green, while more copper shifts the color toward blue. Among many fascinating facts, she said that in order to obtain a constant supply of unprocessed stone, miners had to dig over 750 miles of tunnels in Nevada. She put the extensive length of these tunnels into perspective by noting that the whole state of Nevada covers 425 miles.

She also mentioned silver mining in the Comstock Lode. Miners sometimes encountered water so hot, it could boil folks. And, in fact, it did so to some of the miners.

Raw Light Blue Turquoise on display
Special thanks to Caroline Kunioka for assembling the mining display

Crystal Van Dee, Curator of Manuscripts for the Nevada State Museum, discussed the Comstock Lode in detail, highlighting some of the more colorful, human aspects of the history of Nevada's historic gold and silver mining operations. It was influential enough to help speed along statehood for Nevada and is considered one of the most dynamic aspects of 19th century Nevada.

One of the many interesting and entertaining tales she told was that of miner Henry Comstock. Though he was the lode's namesake, he was actually not its greatest proprietor. Instead, he was more of a salesman and, as Van Dee put it, rather a "professional shade-thrower," who didn't do much heavy lifting, but "did all the heavy talking about the lode." In actuality, he just managed to be a caretaker on the land, merely occupying a nearby cabin actually owned by the Grosh brothers, Ethan Allen and Hosea, who were there first in 1857, but who had both died prematurely.

Henry Comstock

If it was any historical consolation, Comstock never became wealthy because of the land because he sold it for modest gain before the actual explosion of the land value, which didn't happen until the famous Rush to Washoe in 1859, which lured silver prospectors from all over. That discovery set off a 20-year font of prosperity for the lode that even American history still holds high. Financially, it bore nearly $500 million in gold and silver.

Comstock Mine
Cutaway of a typical Comstock mine

Sali Underwood, Curator of Natural History, spoke about ancient Southwestern jewelry, which included stone nose plugs, among other personal artifacts.

Karan Feder explored jewelry of the 19th and 20th centuries. She talked about the history of bling, including Victorian jewelry, dangerous jewelry (jewelry that could actually inadvertently injure fellow passengers on public transportation), and,the fabulous adornment (over)worn by stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Liberace.

Of Liberace, she said that, when someone asked him how he played piano with so many rings on his fingers, he replied "Very well, thank you!" Classic Liberace. Both stars wore a plethora of rhinestones, which are actually real stones, found near the Rhine in Germany, hence their name.

Rhinestone earrings worn by Marilyn Monroe

All of the presentations were excellent, well-researched, and engagingly presented. Thanks to all.

In addition, the Friends held a silent auction and direct sales of jewelry, fossils, rocks, and minerals with a few handbags as a fundraiser to support the museum. Volunteers from Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) served light snacks helped manage sales.

Some of the jewelry for sale

This was our biggest fundraising event ever. Proceeds – originating from the pre-sale members evening, key donations, and the day of the event – totaled more than $3000 for Nevada State Museum Las Vegas projects!

In light of this, and for all your support, the Friends say thank you to everyone who bought raffle tickets, made a jewelry donation and purchased jewelry, purses and rocks, and who participated in the silent auction.

We were excited to see most of our attendees were newcomers. Thank you for coming, and we hope to see you in future events.

Bone Identification for Beginners Workshop

One Saturday afternoon in November, Virginia “Ginny” Lucas gave a fascinating presentation to an avid group of people gathered to learn more about bones. All kinds of bones. Real animal and human bones, and replica bones. It was an enthralling lecture.

Ginny (right) taps the spine

She started with an explanation about the types of science for which bone identification is needed. Forensic anthropology is the study of human osteology, often involving crime scene recoveries. Whereas bioarcheology is is the same, but typically involves bones that are more than 50 years old. And then there is zooarcheology which is about animal bones and also about understanding the human behavior about those remains.

This is where your femurs are located, inside your body, hopefully

Ginny explained how sometimes bones can be strangely misidentified - such as how the human cranium can be mixed up with a turtle shell. Also rib bones across species can be confused, although human ribs tend to be more curved. Even human hands can be taken for bear paws. Ginny handed out examples and helped show us how to distinguish between them. 

compare bones
Comparing animal and human bones

When the presentation was over, Ginny provided each table with a selection of bones of all types for us to review, followed by a test.

Since giving this presentation Ginny, a long time volunteer, and intern at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, has accepted a position at the Lost City Museum as Curator of Archeology. Congratulations to Ginny. We wish her the very best in her new position.

Day of the Dead Celebration

By Joan Whitely

With the backdrop of a star-lit sky and live mariachi music floating through Lorenzi Park, the Friends of NV State Museum did outreach to households near the museum by participating in the city’s recent Day of the Dead celebration.

It was the city’s second annual, and drew more than 2,000 people, according to employee Jennifer Rabanes, who coordinated the free Nov. 2 event. Since the nearby Springs Preserve’s Day of the Dead on the same date charged an admission fee, the Friends board decided to join the event with no admission fee obligation.

Students from Western High – members of the Jobs for America’s Graduates program (JAG) – assisted the Friends on two fronts at the evening celebration.

The first “front” was the Friends’ craft section. Children colored butterfly masks. Our motif contrasted with the cheerful skull art at other craft tables. The JAG volunteers passed out materials and helped assemble the masks and handles.

Butterfly masks

The second was our "ofrenda", or, altar with offerings to the dead. Other altars paid tribute to personages including: Metro police officers who died on duty; people lost to Alzheimer’s disease; the Catholic Church’s newly canonized South American St. Oscar; and bygone house pets.

The NSMLV ofrenda

The Friends dedicated its altar to four obscure players in Southern Nevada history. We viewed the altar as a way to promote the museum’s history mission. It’s our plan to honor different people each year, eventually accumulating a hall of fame for local history.

“Mingle with historical figures at NV State Museum, LV” was the catchphrase for the Friends altar. Several JAG students were always on hand at the altar to answer questions about our honorees.

The NSMLV ofrenda sign

Our “oldest” honoree was Rafael Rivera, a Mexican scout thought to be the first non-native American to visit the Las Vegas Valley. In 1829, as part of trader Antonio Armijo’s caravan, Rivera went ahead with a small party in search of water. He left the group to discover the Las Vegas Springs, which is part of the wash flowing from the springs to the Colorado River.

Rafael Rivera

Chief Tecopa – for whom California’s Tecopa Springs is named – led a band of Paiutes that ranged roughly from Ash Meadows to Pahrump. In the 1840s he and his warriors fought three days against the John C. Fremont expedition because the band’s essential water and woodland areas were increasingly taxed by white prospectors and settlers. Later Tecopa worked to keep peace between miners and natives. He customarily wore a red band suit with gold braid. Out of gratitude local miners periodically purchased a new suit for the chief.

Chief Tecopa

The third honored was John Howell, a mixed-race rancher from North Carolina who lived in the LV Valley (population: 13) in 1870. Described as Negro and mulatto, Howell held land in the central valley and is on record competing for water rights with white rancher O.D. Gass, who ranched at the site of the Mormon Fort, and sold it to the Stewart family. In 1878, Howell left for lower Nye County. Historian Elizabeth Warren theorizes that Howell – whose cabin remains are located at the Springs – is not as well known as Gass because he was a minority.

There is no known photo of Mr. Howell.

The fourth honoree, miner Sam Yet, was an American of Chinese-British descent. He started as a cook at the New Era mine near Searchlight but became the owner when his floundering boss gave it to Yet to count as back pay. Yet went on to become the richest man in Searchlight. In 1915, a mining magazine wrote about his ingenuity at building machines from scrap. He died a widower in 1932 and left his money to a friend, the Searchlight sheriff.

Sam Yet

All events held at the museum and are free with paid admission or membership. No registration required unless otherwise noted. Friends general meetings are the 3rd Thurs. of month. The museum is at 309 S. Valley View Blvd., inside Springs Preserve, LV 89107
Sun Dec 2 10 am Bookfair at Barnes and Noble, 8915 W. Charleston Blvd. LV 89117 Buy books and toys at Barnes and Noble to support the Friends of NSMLV. Just mention the Friends when you pay the cashier. Friends event
Thu Dec 20 6 pm General Meeting Holiday Potluck Friends event
Thu Jan 17 2019 6 pm Annual Business Meeting The Friends of NSMLV annual business meeting will be held in the Special Events room. By-law changes and the annual report will be discussed. Help us celebrate our successes and honor volunteers and donors. Friends event

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

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