Permanent Indoor Exhibits
Using vintage artifacts along with interactive iPad kiosks, the Museum’s exhibits tell the story of Sparks from the earliest settlers to modern day.
The first gallery looks at Sparks before it was incorporated. California bound immigrants parties following the Truckee River found fresh water and feed for their cattle in the Meadows east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 1855, a trading post was established in the meadows which Sparks now occupies. A culture of ranching and mining ensued
Against the backdrop of sepia toned photographs of Old Sparks, the next gallery explores the development of Sparks as a railroad town. Sparks was officially founded in 1904 when the Southern Pacific Railroad moved their Roundhouse and locomotive erecting shop from Wadsworth, Nevada, in an effort to shorten travel routes. The City of Sparks sprung up over night as employees literally picked up, moved and reassembled their homes in a matter of days lured by the promise of a deeded plot of land for $1 as a reward.
Visitors are able to immerse themselves in life in a railroad town as many of the exhibits are not behind glass, giving one the feeling that they are actually in the old dispatcher’s office or inside the original general store. Lifestyle dioramas depict a music room, living room, dining room and laundry room from early day Sparks.
The next gallery focuses on Transportation. The Intercontinental Railroad, the Lincoln Highway, Route 40 and Interstate 80 have all brought travelers from across America and across the world to Sparks. All of these travelers pass directly in front of the historic buildings which house the Museum.
Special exhibits pay tribute to the local schools, children and sports. Toys over 100 years old enrapture us, while the Sparks High exhibit including a poodle skirt brings a flood of memories to many.
To this day the Aerospace industry, fueled by the Military, has plays a significant role in the economy of Northern Nevada. Sparks proud history of supporting the military is depicted. The newest exhibit highlights the role Sparks played in getting the first man on and off the moon through the testing and development of rocket engines for the Lunar Lander.
As part of our mission, the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center preserves and protects artifacts, photographs and printed materials which illustrate the rich history of Sparks and the Truckee Meadows. Some of these objects are on display in the Museum; others are housed in our collections. Items are rotated into and out of the permanent exhibits giving the visitor the opportunity see different things on each time they visit.
Across the street from the Museum in Lillard Park are the following:
- A preserved railroad bridge built by Chinese immigrants
- A memorial to the Chinese railroad workers
- A replica of a Southern Pacific Depot
- The Bicentennial Train display
- Number 8 South Pacific Steam Locomotive built in 1907
- A radio equipped Cupola Caboose built in the 1941
- A 1911 Pullman Car that was converted to an Executive Car in the 1920’s and refurbished 1976 by Harrah’s for the United States Bicentennial
- The Glendale Schoolhouse built in 1864 and home to famous students such as Senator McCarran
Behind the Museum in the Memorial Park are the following:
- Statues of police and firefighters
- Memorial plaques listings Sparks residents who gave their lives during the Korean War and in the line of duty as police officers and firefighters
At the Museum pick up a copy of the Historic Sparks Walking Tour featuring six nationally registered buildings within easy walking distance of the Museum
Tours of the train are available Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment for groups.
The Glendale Schoolhouse is open during special events and by appointment for groups.