The Nevada State Museum fights for visibility at Springs Preserve

History concealed? The greatness of the Nevada State Museum deserves a little more love.
Photo: Steve Marcus

An exterior view of the Nevada State Museum in the Las Vegas Springs Preserve Monday, March 2, 2015.

Despite its collection of artifacts from (and within) a city that often erases itself, the Nevada State Museum has never quite received the attention it deserves. Rarely do we celebrate the cultural with the same fanfare and gusto as we do the Strip—or even a strip mall—but the fact that the museum’s stellar new building sat empty for two years in its Springs Preserve location (with no state funds to open it) was maybe reflective of the overall opinion of cultural institutions in Las Vegas.

Nevada State Museum in the Las Vegas Springs Preserve

When the museum finally opened at Springs Preserve in 2011, moving from Lorenzi Park and replacing its tired and outdated self with fresh and engaging interactive exhibits, another dilemma arrived: visibility. The two entities share the same entrance, meaning that visitors must pay entrance fees for Springs Preserve, owned by the Las Vegas Valley Water District, to get to the museum. In turn, 10 percent of adult admission fees go to the State Museum on the five days the museum is open. But the museum is located in the opposite direction of many popular Springs Preserve attractions, so visitors aren’t as likely to stumble upon it. New signage at the main entrance off Valley View Boulevard listing Nevada State Museum as one of the offerings might help awareness. “Is that going to solve all of our problems? Not at all,” says Peter Barton, administrator for the state’s division of museums and history. “It’s a complex relationship, a complex site with a lot of options presented to the visitors when they arrive.”

But, he adds: “We’re trying to raise our hand a little. We’re working with the Springs Preserve. It’s an ongoing process for everyone. Some of that is our inability to have a marketing budget. That would go a long way in terms of getting us in front of the community.” Dawn Barraclough, Springs Preserve spokeswoman, said the preserve wants guests to know about the museum, and the sign will help.

Despite visibility issues, Barton says museum attendance has jumped to 42,000 the past two years, quite a bump from 30,000-35,000 at the Lorenzi location “during the good years.”

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