Elko has a museum? And it’s open for a couple hours on Sunday? YES! If you’re passing through Elko with a couple hours on hand, the Northern Nevada Museum is a decent way to spend it. There’s an excellent display of western art, including work by local cowboy artists (notably William Matthews watercolors), photos from Ansel Adams and a section about the diverse history and culture of the region. Most surprising was the Wanamaker Wildlife Gallery, it has an amazing number of taxidermied animals from around the world.
The museum has natural and regional history artifacts on exhibit that chronicle northeastern Nevada history and culture, including exploration, railroads, mining (imagine lots of rocks in cases), and ranching. There are displays of early Elko County culture highlighting household items, clothing, sporting goods, toys, 100’s of antique rifles and pistols, medical practice, and a vintage printing press. Other exhibits feature American Indian, Basque, Chinese, and Cowboy cultures.
Part of Cowboy culture has always been cattle rustling. Ingenious shoes were created by a cattle rustle named Crazy Tex Hazelwood. Ol’ Tex practiced his thieving craft in Northern Nevada during the 1920s with great success thanks to clever boots now on display at the museum. Elko ranch hands were confused when cattle were disappearing but there were no telltale boot tracks. The only indentions in the ground were hoof prints. Following the trail to a nearby clearing, the they discovered one Crazy Tex Hazelwood (a harmless, small-time criminal) wearing clever, homemade boots with a pair of attached cow hooves, respectively, protruding from either sole. You can’t make this stuff up!
In the Wiegand Gallery visitors can view the very rare remains of 2 million-year-old Mastodon bones that were recovered from a construction site in nearby Spring Creek, Nevada, are on exhibit. Spring Creek is a small town 10 miles south of Elko.
And last but, but not least Nevada’s largest collection of wild animals from around the world is on permanent exhibit in the Wanamaker Wing. There are more than 180 specimens exhibited in habitat dioramas, as well as animal mounts and historic hunting gear. The majority of these animals were donated by the late Jack Wanamaker of Burbank, California. Why? The animals aren’t from this region. There are a LOT of stuffed animals in this room with no information on the hunter himself or why he would donate his prizes to this museum. I figure his wife told him it was him or the stuffed animals but something had to go. Just a thought.
Overall the small town museum was a real bargain at 5 bucks, a steal for seniors for $3, on a lazy Sunday in Nevada. Enjoy your day wherever you find yourself.