It surprises no one anymore that in addition to viewing thousands of cat videos online we can also read their accompanying criticisms by a chorus of strangers, chiming in from office parks across the globe. So the idea that it took 12 hours to transmit the Nevada Constitution to Washington, D.C., 150 years ago is nothing short of perplexing.
Ancient stone etchings are as unfathomable as leaving the house to learn about Morse code, typewriters, old movie cameras and telegraphs. Yet it is in these crazy waters of communications past that Crystal Van Dee dared venture while curating an exhibit on communications throughout history, a long slog and fascinating journey marked by inventions, contraptions and bulky devices made in the name of technologic advancement.
For Every Age Is an Information Age: 150 Years of Communication in Nevada at Nevada State Museum, Van Dee, the museum’s curator of manuscripts, pulled from the racks vintage cameras, telephones, 20th century letters, newspapers and radios leading up to the digital era.
So voluminous and well-curated is the exhibit that it covers even the minutiae of data storage and machine parts while showcasing the varying aesthetics of living room electronics—large wooden furniture-esque objects containing TVs and radios.
Wall texts relay the roles of mass-produced books leading to the Reformation and Renaissance, and social media in the Arab Spring. In a typed letter to the Southern Nevada Telephone Company, Benny Binion (of Horseshoe fame) shares his appreciation of the installation of a new phone line. A Teletype bulletin announces the death of Howard Hughes, and a mannequin wearing an operator’s breastplate and headset sits at a switchboard used in Las Vegas in the early 20th century.
Between the vintage eye candy of evolving design and the copies of newspapers marking historic events, there are tidbits denoting the science of invention, the arrival of television in Southern Nevada (Searchlight was the first to receive the signal), rock art and its role in the area, and a sampling of personal letters discussing in rich, colorful verse anything from anti-communism efforts to quickie divorce papers. In all of this lies the undying need to connect—even if it’s not at dizzying speeds.
Every Age is an Information Age: 150 Years of Communication in Nevada Through May 2015; Thursday-Monday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; $10-$19. Nevada State Museum, at Springs Preserve, 702-486-5205.