AP Exchange: UNR museum exhibit on Mackay Mines

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RENO, Nev. (AP) - Fossils and minerals of Nevada. Check.

A petrified apple. Check. Gold and silver. Crystals. Check.

Silver service for 24 people and a historic seismograph. Check.

Exhibits spanning 100 years of Nevada natural history, mining and mineral study. Check.

All this and more make up “Earthquakes, Chukars and Millionaires: The Mackay Mines Story,” an ambitious yearlong exhibit, which opened Feb. 1 at the W.M. Keck Earth Science and Mineral Engineering Museum at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“We just have cool stuff here,” said museum administrator Garrett Barmore.

Museum personnel wanted to do something to tie into Nevada’s 150th anniversary of statehood this year, and also wanted to let the public know more about the museum with its 60,000 or so items, Barmore said.

“One reason was to show we’re still here,” Barmore said. “We’ve been here since 1908.”

The Keck Museum, in the Mackay School of Mines building, holds much of the history of Nevada’s mining industry in the form of rocks, minerals and fossils, but it also has stories of its own about the students and faculty who have used the building for 100-plus years.

Barmore started working in the museum in September and he heard stories, some of them “pretty off the wall.”

“The building was built 1908, and redone in 1920. Students and other people would punch holes in the floors to make offices below,” Barmore related.

The new basement dwellers needed access to their new rooms, so they stole an old set of stairs discarded from the downtown post office, Barmore said.

“There was a kind of independent spirit,” he said.

John Mackay’s old mining stamp mill was in the building, so basement space was excavated for it. And there was an operating mining assay lab in the building in the 1940s. Gasses would build up in the chimney and frequently explode, Barmore said.

Work on the exhibit began in October with graduate assistant Natasha Majewski doing research on what the museum held that might fit into the plans.

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