The basis of the Lost City Museum’s collections is artifacts recovered from a series of archaeological sites that run for 25 miles along the Muddy River Valley in southern Nevada. The ruins were brought to the attention of the Governor of Nevada, James Scrugham, in 1924 by two brothers from Overton, John and Fay Perkins. The Governor had expressed an interest in locating the sites that had been mentioned by early explorer Jedediah Smith who traveled through the area in 1826-27.
Governor Scrugham enlisted the help of archaeologist M. R. Harrington who was at that time associated with the Museum of the American Indian in New York City. Harrington verified the importance of the sites and named them Pueblo Grande de Nevada, the grand city of Nevada. He recognized them as belonging to the Ancestral Puebloan civilization that had flourished in the American Southwest for over 2000 years. Excavations at the Lost City began under his direction in 1924 and continued off and on until 1938.
The creation of the Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) during the 1930’s, had a profound impact on the archaeology of the area and the creation of the Lost City Museum. Members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, with Harrington directing, excavated sites that would be inundated when the Colorado River was damned and Lake Mead created. In 1935, the National Park Service built the Boulder Dam Park Museum (now the Lost City Museum) to house the artifacts that were being recovered from the excavations.
In 1953, the National Park Service turned the museum over to the state of Nevada. During that same year, some state funding became available to operate the museum. In 1955, the museum was officially funded through the Nevada State Department of Buildings and Grounds and renamed the Lost City Museum.
In the 1970s, the Nevada Legislature appropriated money for a new museum addition. In 1981 the museum grew again adding a third gallery, which was completed with grant funds from the Fleischmann Foundation. This brought the total square footage to approximately 10,000. Research continues on the remaining Lost City archaeological sites and on the objects that have been excavated from them. Many sites have been destroyed due to development, but the State of Nevada purchased several sites areas with grant funds from the Fleischmann Foundation in order to preserve them for future generations.
The museum is currently owned and maintained by the State of Nevada as one of its seven state museums. In addition to three exhibit galleries, the museum contains a small theater, a research library, a museum store, outdoor archaeological and historic exhibits.
Programs include ongoing archaeological research on Lost City sites, workshops, school tours and outreach programs, permanent and changing exhibits, and research library. Special public programs such as Kids’ Days in April and October and Native American Day in November are held throughout the year.
The Lost City Museum has a shaded picnic area and grill available to use. There are many parking spaces available for bus, RV and passenger vehicles. Public restrooms are accessible inside of the museum. A water machine is accessible near the pueblos on the right side of the museum.
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