Old is new at Mesquite’s Virgin Valley Heritage Museum as Kristan Darragh, Museum Coordinator, brings changes to the format.
Beginning last month, the museum, located at 35 W. Mesquite Blvd., began featuring displays, which will change every month.
“We wanted to do something to encourage people to visit us more than once,” Darragh said. “We started this new program in July (2012) with a patriotic theme and we will change the display every month.” The August theme will be a tribute to Mesquite agriculture while September will feature a back-to-school format.
The agriculture display includes relics, tools and craftwork as well as photographs and examples of food products.
“Most of our artifacts have been donated or loaned by descendants of the original settlers in Mesquite,” Darragh explained. “And that makes our museum a true representation of Mesquite’s heritage.”
Maggie Nichels and her grandson Christian came into the museum to lend her treasured hand-made baby quilt.
“But I want it back when the family comes to town,” she said. There are also personal accounts of many original family members which are unpublished and kept in file folders. All displays attest to the rigors and difficult life Mesquite’s early citizens encountered while building their lives.
Darragh’s goal is to encourage more returning visitors to supplement the 10-15 visitors currently passing through the doors each day.
“We would love to triple the number of visitors we see,” she added. “Our staff is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the work we do here because we add something to the community that money can’t buy.”
Funding is always a challenge with the bulk of it coming from the city.
“Although we are a free attraction, donations are accepted and encouraged because the city does not cover all of our expenses,” Darragh said. “In fact our latest fund-raising effort is the ‘buy a brick’ program.”
For $50 anyone can buy a brick on which the donor’s name will be inscribed. That brick will become a permanent part of the museum’s new garden expansion. Funds collected from “buy a brick” will be used exclusively to finance the garden expansion. Darragh is excited about the garden which she hopes will provide a relaxing shady spot for visitors during their visits to the museum.
The museum employs three staff members: two are part time. Additional help is provided by volunteer workers. The building was built in 1941 as a library and museum. Nineteen months later it was converted to a clinic-hospital due to the urgent needs of the community. It remained a clinic until 1977 when its only nurse, Bertha Howe died.
It closed briefly then was used as a meeting house for the Boy Scouts. In 1985 it was officially opened as the Virgin Valley Heritage Museum. The building itself is unique as it was intended to take on the appearance of buildings built during the 1800s and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Museum hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. Guided walking tours are also provided by the museum staff.
School groups are periodic guests at the museum during the school year.
“Kids provide new eyes for us and we always enjoy their enthusiasm,” Darragh said. “There is a wealth of local information for research projects and activities … for instance, we had a student group in here earlier and we had them making butter from a real churn.”
The students were able to take the butter home and share with their families. In an age where technology leaps ahead so quickly, it is a positive learning experience for the children to learn what people had to do to survive in the past.
Darragh said she and her staff encourage everyone to visit them and discover, “What Jedediah Strong Smith contributed to the history of this area.”