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Nevada Museum of Art’s historic exhibition honors “Battle Born” Nevada

By Miriam Hodgman

286NEVADA MUSEUM OF ART NEWS RELEASE – In celebration of 150 years of statehood, the Nevada Museum of Art honors the “Battle Born” state with a significant exhibition detailing the journey toward October 31, 1864. This special show features historic treasures from our nation’s capital, including a special 36-hour presentation of the original Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln, on loan from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.   Also on exhibit are Timothy O’ Sullivan photographs, historical Nevada objects, and statehood documents on loan from important regional museums. Exclusively sponsored by the E. L. Wiegand Foundation, The 36th Star: Nevada’s Journey from Territory to State is on display August 2 through November 2, 2014 at the Nevada Museum of Art, Donald W. Reynolds Center for the Visual Arts, E. L. Wiegand Gallery located at 160 West Liberty Street in downtown Reno, Nevada.

It is impossible to separate Nevada’s journey to statehood from the history of the United States Civil War. The ambitious territory joined the Union not because of its mineral riches, but because of its readiness to stand with a President poised to change history for the better. In 1864, President Lincoln faced a re-election bid. His future–and the future of a united nation–was uncertain. To win re-election in 1864, Lincoln needed the votes of an additional state to advance his anti-slavery, pro-Union ideas, and help push through new amendments to the Constitution, the most significant being the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery. It was with this mandate that the Nevada territory pressed urgently toward statehood.

Before this journey from territory to state could be realized, Lincoln first had to issue his pivotal executive order, the most famous and poignant in our history. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln penned the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring the freedom of slaves in areas still in rebellion. This order altered the future of the country, and began the sea change toward a more tolerant United States, one that truly embraced the notion of “one nation for all.” Once the order had been issued, the message to territories seeking statehood resonated loud and clear. Nevada knew the importance of its statehood ascension and rose to the duty with honor and pride. This is the battle the state was born to fight, the battle of liberty, freedom, and justice for all.

“The State of Nevada deeply appreciates the willingness of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., to allow the Nevada Museum of Art to share the Emancipation Proclamation with our state. We cannot think of a more appropriate 150th birthday present than to have a special visit from such a powerful and important document in our Nation’s history,” said Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. “We understand the original Emancipation Proclamation is restricted to a limited number of hours each year. How lucky we are to display it for 36 hours during this special year of celebration!”

“As a milestone on the path to slavery’s final abolishment, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom,” said Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero. “We are honored to share it for the exhibit The 36th Star: Nevada’s Journey from Territory to State at the Nevada Museum of Art.”

The 36th Star will be displayed in three galleries on the Museum’s second floor, each housing a unique combination of significant objects telling the story of Nevada’s journey to statehood. Highlights include: the 175-page transcription of Nevada’s State Constitution that was sent from Territorial Governor James Nye to Abraham Lincoln via telegram—the longest telegram at that time which cost nearly $60,000 to send (in today’s dollars); the original copy of the Nevada State Constitution, typically held in storage at the Nevada State Library and Archives in Carson City; never-before-displayed Civil War-era muster rolls of the Nevada Volunteers; artifacts belonging to Nevada’s first governor Henry G. Blasdel and Captain Joseph Stewart, commander of Nevada’s Fort Churchill; as well as the historic Austin Flour Sack used to raise money for the troops during the Civil War.

“The extremely rare documents and historical artifacts on view in this exhibition are truly one-of-a kind and have never been together in the same place at the same time before,” says Ann M. Wolfe, the Museum’s Senior Curator who organized the exhibition. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Nevadans to see the state’s history brought to life.”

Additionally, two sets of original Timothy O’Sullivan photographs on loan from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., bookend the exhibition. Highlights include O’Sullivan’s famous photograph A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg from 1863, as well as over 20 Nevada photographs taken by O’Sullivan in 1867 as part of Clarence King’s government-sponsored Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel. This is the first time these historic O’Sullivan images of Nevada have been shown in the state. The exhibition includes items on loan from the Nevada State Museum, the Nevada State Library and Archives, the Nevada Historical Society, the Library of Congress, Washington D.C., and the National Archives, Washington, D.C.

The 36th Star: Nevada’s Journey from Territory to State will be exhibited August 2 through November 2, 2014, at the Nevada Museum of Art, Donald W. Reynolds Center for the Visual Arts, E. L. Wiegand Gallery located at 160 West Liberty Street in downtown Reno. The original Emancipation Proclamation will be on view at the close of the exhibition, October 30 through November 2.

This exhibition is exclusively sponsored by the E. L. Wiegand Foundation.

The National Archives is an independent federal agency that preserves and shares with the public records that trace the story of our nation, government and the American people. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers and presidential libraries, and online at www.archives.gov.  The Emancipation Proclamation is just one of the millions of Civil War records held by the National Archives. Its rich reservoir of Civil War records includes presidential telegrams, official battle reports, and correspondence between generals, but also individual soldier and sailor service records, maps, patent drawings, photographs, recruiting handbills, and petitions to Congress. The Records of the Freedmen’s Bureau document the initial transition from slavery to freedom after the war.   

The Nevada Museum of Art is a museum of ideas. The only accredited art museum in the state, it is a private, non-profit organization supported by the generosity of its membership as well as by sponsorships and grants.  Through creative programming and scholarship, the Museum provides the opportunity for people to encounter, engage and enjoy a diversity of art experiences.  The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm, late on Thursdays until 8 pm, and closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and national holidays.  Admission is FREE for members, $10 General Admission, $8 Student / Senior, $1 children 6 to 12 years and free for children 5 and under. Annual Museum Membership starts at just $30. Visit NevadaArt.org for more information.

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