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Emancipation Proclamation pays Reno a visit

Nevada is celebrating its 150th birthday this year, and the governor’s office has issued a directive stating that there should be at least 150 special events and exhibitions to commemorate the sesquicentennial. So far, about 300 have taken place, but the biggest coup has been scored by the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno.

To accompany its current “The 36th Star: Nevada’s Journey from Territory to State,” the museum will feature the original Emancipation Proclamation, issued and signed by Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863. On loan from the National Archives, the document, declaring all slaves in states still in rebellion to be free, is on display for only 48 hours a year. The museum will host it Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 for 36 of those hours.

Nevada’s statehood is an essential part of Civil War history. A popular misconception is that the territory was given statehood because of the need for its mineral riches by the North. But historians contend that it had more to do with the re-election of Lincoln, who needed the new senators to ensure his victory.

The exhibition is displayed on three floors of the museum and includes a 175-page transcription of the Nevada State Constitution, which was sent by then-territorial Gov. James Nye to Lincoln (it was one of the longest – and most expensive – telegrams at that time, costing around $60,000 in today’s currency).

In addition to the original copy of the Constitution and never-before-displayed muster rolls, the show also features a flag from Fort Ruby and two sets of original Timothy O’Sullivan photographs from the Library of Congress. They include his famous “A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg” (1863) as well as Nevada photographs by O’Sullivan of the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel.

The Nevada Museum of Art is at 160 West Liberty St., Reno. (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays; $10 general admission, $8 students and seniors, $1 children 6-12; 775-329-3333; The museum will not charge any additional fee to view the Emancipation Proclamation.


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