Life in Paradise: The Nevada State Museum

Last fall I wrote about the Beyond the Mint but tour that showcased mid-century modern architecture in Las Vegas. Recently I attended the grand opening of an exhibit at the Nevada State Museum that features many of the same buildings I got to know on the tour. For me, that was enough to get me to the museum, but I realize that clean lines and celestory windows may not move everyone. I am happy to report that the museum, located in Lorenzi Park in Las Vegas, is worth the $4.00 price of admission even if you skip the photographs and other items relating to modern architecture.

Ever Wondered What's In That Back Room?
Photo by Steve Fey

In the photo to the left is a portion of the exhibit they call “Working 24-Hours in Las Vegas.” The exhibit includes actual recorded voices of several people who hold, or held, various jobs in our biggest industry. If you’ve ever had a job that took you into the working portions of one of our resorts, you probably pretty much know what’s behind that door. If like many people particularly visitors from out of town, you haven’t had that experience, then what you find behind the security office door may come as a bit of a surprise. The exhibit you’ll find in the museum is of an office from a couple of decades or so ago, but I can say from experience that the basic idea of what constitutes a resort security office has not changed. Technology has made it possible to monitor a lot more areas at one time, is the major change over the years. I will say that I have never seen an accurate representation in a movie or television show, because an actual back room is, frankly, about as exciting as watching paint dry. But, come to the museum and judge for yourself!

A Scene Familiar to All
Photo by Steve Fey

This photograph should look more familiar. It’s old-timey (this is a museum, after all) but it includes game tables, gambling machinery, a stage and representations of a group of personalities. This is the Vegas that everyone knows, of course, and that may explain why casino floors are usually represented pretty much as they are in fictional works. There are some fascinating antique slot and poker machines on display, including one from the early days of Nevada’s gaming industry.

If you spend some time in the Valley, you can’t help noticing that gambling isn’t all there is to Southern Nevada. This area actually has a lot more interesting things to explore and learn about than can be found on Las Vegas Boulevard.

A Former Las Vegan Who Lost More than His Shirt
Photo by Steve Fey

Take this guy, for instance. 15,000 years ago there were more than a few meadows in this area. It was more of a savanna, with running water and trees and grass everywhere. Large animals like this mammoth and herds of horses roamed the valley, trying to avoid becoming lunch for the wolves and big cats who also lived in these parts. In the room devoted to the natural history of Southern Nevada you can learn how this beautiful desert was formed, and the sorts of creatures who used to live here.

Of course, one creature who moved in since that mammoth lived was humans. First hunter-gatherer tribes, later on more permanent settlements, and beginning a couple of centuries ago, the Europeans who named this area and eventually founded what we now call The Entertainment Capital of the World. You can learn about these people as well, including such notables as Sarah Winnemucca and her people, when you drop in to the Nevada State Museum in Lorenzi Park.

The Nevada State Museum, 700 Twin Lakes Drive, Las Vegas, Nevada 89107
Phone: (702) 486-5205