A present walk into the past: Museum features Washo and Basque histories in Douglas County | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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A present walk into the past: Museum features Washo and Basque histories in Douglas County

Nancy Oliver Hayden
The Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center was the former Douglas County High School. The building was designed by Frederic De Longchamps in 1915. Photos by Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune
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If you are looking for an intriguing way to spend a few hours, step back in time and expand your knowledge of Nevada history at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center. A visit to the museum will provide an opportunity to journey into the past and discover the story of the people who settled the Carson Valley and Douglas County.

The museum is housed in the former Douglas County High School building at 1477 Highway 395 North, Gardnerville. The building was designed by famed architect Frederic De Longchamps and constructed in 1915. In 1988 the school board leased the building to the Carson Valley Historical Society and the society renovated the structure to become a museum of Carson Valley history. Funding included grants from Douglas County and the State of Nevada as well as private donations. Volunteer help from individuals, businesses, and organizations brought about the successful restoration of the building and the grand opening of the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center Aug. 19, 1995.

Tours of the museum are conducted by volunteers, many special events and fund-raisers take place throughout the year, and a gift shop offers Indian art, books on the area, local crafts and souvenirs. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for youths 6 to 18 years of age and free for children 5 years and younger.



A variety of exhibits may be found on the two floors of the museum. Among the most popular are the Washo Room and the Basque and Country Doctor exhibits. Other displays feature the Record-Courier newspaper, the Farmers Telephone and Telegraph display, Women in History, Natural History, and the Changing Exhibit Room. The museum also offers a research library, where people look for photographs and information on their ancestors, as well as meeting rooms with a kitchen for rent.

The Washo Room features Native American murals with bold colors illustrating water, land and sky. Native American artifacts, art work and baskets fill the room and the walls are covered with photographs of Washo from the past to the present. At one side of the room is a galis dungal, a Washo winter house.



The Basque exhibit depicts the lonely life of a Basque sheepherder tending his sheep in the Pine Nut mountains. The exhibit features an arborglyph, a Basque tree carving. To pass the time, the Basque sheepherder would carve his name, where he was born, and maybe a self portrait on a tree near his campsite.

A Country Doctor exhibit looks at the early years of Carson Valley’s medical profession. Among the early physicians featured is Dr. Eliza Cook (1856-1947), who was the second female physician in Nevada and practiced in the Carson Valley. She was only 28 years old when she started her practice and made calls in a horse and buggy – day or night.

The Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center also operates the Genoa Courthouse Museum, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily May through October.

Both museums are supported by memberships. Among the benefits members receive are free admission to both museums, 10 percent discount at museum stores, invitations to special events, discounts on education programs and an opportunity to give a future to Douglas County’s past. Funds to operate the museums come from admissions, donations, gift shop sales, memorials, grants, and an endowment fund to which people are encouraged to donate.

For more information about volunteering or becoming a member call (775) 782-2555.


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