Curators help to preserve Nevada's history

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Museums help keep history alive and the Museum of Natural History at the University of Nevada, Reno is no different.

Some collections date back as far as 1850.

Santiago Villamarin is the collection manager at the museum, responsible for organizing and repairing the insects.

"They have to be stored away from oxygen and into these cabinets," said Villamarin. "So they will be preserved for hundreds of years."

Villamarin said these specimens tell a unique story.

"For instance what has happened to the butterflies that were here in Nevada from the 1900's? You can tell a lot from the collection and what happened to those butterflies," added Villamarin.

Carefully tucked away are files of native plants in rows of cabinets.

Specializing in floristics, plant curator Jerry Tiehm documents the unique habitats in our region.

"There are 3,600 plants that occur in Nevada to show you how diverse it is. If you think about Nevada, you've got the high Sierra right behind us here and you go all the way to the Colorado river where the elevation is 400 feet," explained Tiehm. "So it is quite diverse."

It's nonstop work and curators are still out there, discovering many new species of plants and insects.

"I know a couple summers ago we found 5 new plants native to Nevada in one summer," added Tiehm. "We were working in the northwestern corner where California, Nevada and Arizona come together so when you're working along the border that's where you're expected to find things."

Curators at the museum do a careful job of collecting and preserving for future research.

Co-curator Matt Forester said community outreach is just as important to keep the general public informed of their work.

"They don't realize how fragile it is, these museums take a lot of effort to keep these specimens in good shape and keep them usable," said Forester. "They've accumulated over decades and decades. If we were to lose it we can't reconstruct it. We can use it in the context of modern DNA, but it's not a substitute for one or the other."

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