Museum: Shrine of the Muses; a place for inspiration and education; holds and preserves items of value; encourages the study of objects of scientific, artistic or historical interest.

Saturday started off in a spectacular fashion.  As a volunteer for Historical Reno Preservation Society (HRPS) I was invited to join a small group of fellow history lovers for a private tour of University of Nevada Reno’s Mackay School of Mines, and more especially the Keck Museum. By the end of the morning my head was bursting with new information and admiration. Our guide, Garrett Barmor; museum administrator, started us off outdoors at the foot of the statue of John Mackay, one of the big four magnates of the Comstock Lode.

Mackay's statue was created by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who also gave us Mt. Rushmore.
Mackay’s statue was created by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who also gave us Mt. Rushmore.  The building design was done by a New York City firm (one of its partners was Stanford  White – more about this connection coming in the next photo) and intentionally reflected East Coast campuses as the desire was to make UNR an institution of similar standing and reputation. Later work to expand the size of the building was done by Fredrick Delongchamps, a well-known Reno architect, and the upper floor reading room (window on upper right of picture, below Mackay’s elbow) has furniture made by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The building is an excellent example of adaptive reuse and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
It anyone notices a resemblance to the University of Virginia, you would be correct.  White designed the quad at UNR to replicate "The Lawn", UVA's beloved campus centerpiece.
If anyone notices a resemblance to the University of Virginia, you would be correct. The quad was designed by Stanford White, the architect responsible for Madison Square Garden, the Washington Square Arch, and Boston Public Library – to name a few. White’s plan for the area was based on “The Lawn”, UVA’s much-admired campus centerpiece. White also designed Cocke, Rouse, and Old Cabel on the UVA campus.  The Mackay building matches those in style.
A map of early North America show that Reno once boasted ocean-front property. Our state fossil is the Ichthyosaur, a predatory marine mammal.  NOTE: the Ichthyosaur is NOT a dinosaur.  It does not have the correct hip structure to be classified as such; it was a swimmer and did not "walk like a chicken". Further trivia: G
A map of early North America shows that Reno once boasted ocean-front property. That makes it easier to understand how the Ichthyosaur, a predatory marine mammal, was named our state fossil. NOTE: the Ichthyosaur is NOT a dinosaur. It does not have the correct hip structure to be classified as such; it was a swimmer and did not “walk like a chicken”. Further trivia: Great Basin Brewing Company and Nevada’s oldest craft brewer named it’s inaugural brew Ichthyosaur.  It is known around town as an “Ichy”.
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This photo and the one below show displays on the upper level of the museum. The cases are original as is the wood floor.  Along with fossil specimens, the museum features mining and ore exhibits plus mining related relics and old Nevada photographs.  The Keck is the second oldest museum in Nevada.  (Though some would argue that it is the oldest.  The Nevada Historical Society was founded first, but the Keck was the first to actually serve as a working museum.)

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This map was created for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, also known as the World’s Columbian Exposition. (BTW: Stanford White was a major figure in the architectural undertakings at that extravaganza.) Data for the map was collected with transits, levels and compasses – no modern equipment for those folks. The map was formed and painted by hand. Contrary to the feel as we drive those long expanses between Las Vegas and Reno (going North-South) or between Wendover and Reno (going East-West) I learned that Nevada is the most mountainous state in the US. (That pairs up with another jaw-dropping fact I recently learned: Nevada is the 3rd most urban state, behind California and New York. Wonders never cease…)

A few photos of the beautiful lines and shadows within the building:

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As you look up the wall you can tell by the color change in the bricks where additions were made to the height of the room.

One of the most voluptuous displays is in the lower level of the museum: the Mackay silver.  John Mackay had this made as a gift for his wife.  The work was done by Tiffany’s, and they also designed a custom monogram.  Interestingly enough, the monogram is the same font Tiffany’s used for the New York Yankees logo.

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And how many melon knives are in your silver service???
And how many melon eaters are in your silver service??? In addition to this gold vermeiled set there was another one in “just” silver. Vermeiled means that 24K gold was poured over the silver.  No plain old gold plate for the Mackays.
And what evening is complete without cigars?
And what evening is complete without cigars?

On the the lowest level, which is actually housed within the foundation, we were fortunate to get to tour an area that is closed to the general public.  There we got to see the seismic isolators that were installed to insure the preservation of the original building in the event of an earthquake.  At one time the building was shut down because it did not pass earthquake standards.  It was slated to be razed, but locals (largely HRPS) rallied to encourage the Nevada Board of Regents to find a way to retrofit the structure and make it usable once again. They did!

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Between the red disks are balls that allow the building to move up to one foot in any direction. More precisely, they allow the building to “float” while the earth moves.
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These devices allow the building to accommodate wave motions.

For those of you in Reno, UNR is holding “Day at the Museums” on May 2, 2015. All eleven of the school’s museums will be open. Most are free admission and there will be hands on activities, scavenger hunts, food trucks, and special offerings for kids. For those of you outside of the area here is a link with more information: http://www.unr.edu/keck.  Enjoy!