Through lobbyist and friend of Special Collections, Keith Lee, we heard last month that space might be available in the Legislative Building in Carson City to hang a display of some of our politically related materials. We had been wanting to find a way to tell people about the materials we collect and have for use by students and other researchers, and to also see about receiving additional donations of materials from former politicians or others who worked with political issues.
We had never thought about presenting an exhibit on our materials outside of the Special Collections Department. Usually we create exhibits on themes or special subjects for display in our department and/or around the Knowledge Center building here on campus.
Mr. Lee cautioned me that these spaces were spoken for quite early and we could be too late. But since the Legislature was in session, we had hopes. I traveled to Carson City and he introduced me to Robin Bates, the Assembly Sergeant at Arms, who oversaw the use of the wall space in the Legislative Building for displays and exhibits. Mr. Bates heard my thoughts behind our potential exhibit, and took me to the third floor where he showed me a corridor opposite a large meeting room. The meeting room was used by both Senators and Assembly members as well as a number of outside groups and individuals. And to my amazement he said we could use the entire wall–about 25 linear feet–for our exhibit!
To paraphrase the line from the movie the Godfather: This was an offer I couldn’t refuse!
Back at work, I quickly went through a much expanded idea I had for what we might reproduce for this length of space. Where I had first thought we might have maybe three feet of wall space to hang a panel, I decided on three panels. Two of the panels would be as long as I could make them, about five feet each, and about three feet high and hang to the left of an elevator where the most blank wall space was. The smaller wall space was to the right of the elevator and would need to be about three feet long and about as high. In this way, anyone waiting for the elevator, or lingering in the corridor, could read the panels.
For quite a few weeks I reviewed all sorts of items in our manuscript and photograph collections. The panels needed to be “just right,” to have not only have good content but also have a good design. Our student workers assisted me with scanning the many pieces I choose and then I passed along to our designer Kristi Anderson. We worked on my ideas, edited, thank goodness, by her professional eye.
I’m happy to say that the three panels are now a reality in the Legislative Building’s third floor corridor, opposite room 3100. The panels each have a theme. Of the two larger panels, one is about campaigning for office. It displays an interesting collage of bumper stickers, lawn signs, advertisements for candidates, letters about raising money, photographs of candidates and their staff, as well as a rare voter’s 1864 Union Ticket with Abraham Lincoln’s name on it.
The second large panel is about the work that comes after someone is elected. It highlights the connections that politicians have with their constituents and with other politicians. It displays state budget information from 1935 and 1986 and letters from former governors. As well it highlights some of the people who gained higher offices at the federal level, many who rose from the ranks of local and state office holding.
The last panel shows a short history of women in Nevada’s politics. Suffragette Anne Martin was the first woman to run from Nevada for the U. S. Senate in 1920, followed by Maya Miller in 1974. Neither were successful in gaining that office, but other women were and a few are included in this smaller panel.
I hope that if any of you are in Carson City during this legislative session, you’ll stop by and take a short trip to the third floor to take a look at our panels on the “Politics of Our Past.” And if you have materials which might be donated to us, or know of others who do, please contact us!