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SNOW: A Special Collections Exhibit: Home

A Special Collections Exhibit

​Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, Floors 1-3

December 1, 2016 - March 17, 2017


Snow has always played an important role for the people on or near the Eastern Sierra slope as they live their winter lives.The presence or absence of snow affects the local economy and has shaped the winter experiences of hundreds of thousands of local residents for centuries. This exhibit documents and illustrates the relationships between people and snow in our area throughout history.

Below is a guide to the exhibit on the bottom three floors of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center:


First FloorThe development of skiing and snowboarding in the Sierra. Curated by Peggy McDonald. Whittemore Gallery. Photos on the walls and in the ramp cases are reproductions from Special Collections.

On the south and west walls: giant album pages with early photos of UNR ski team members and activities and scenes from Tahoe-area ski resorts.

On the north wall: to the left of the entry, a member of the 1959 UNR ski team; to the right of the entry is Bonnie Zellers, a local snowboarding pioneer.


On the screen: excerpts from student-produced snowboarding videos and "Nevada Legends of the Fall Line," produced by the Nevada Youth Ski Education Foundation. 

The exhibit cases along the auditorium wall showcase the evolution of snowboarding gear and culture (snowboards and other items courtesy of Tom Burt and Jim Zellers) and the exhibit cases on the ramp showcase the evolution of skiing gear (skis and poles courtesy of Greg Park and Peggy McDonald; snowboard courtesy of Tom Burt, photos are reproductions from Special Collections).


Second Floor, curated by Peggy McDonald, photos are reproductions from Special Collections.

On the north wall: A giant album page with historical photographs of men at work (and play) in the snow.

On the south wall: large photographs of striking and dramatic snow scenes.

In the Hallway exhibit case: Far east side: Skis, boots and poles used by the U.S. Army in World War II, courtesy of Norm Saylor and the Donner Summit Historical Society.


Third Floor, Stories from the Archives. Curated by Donnelyn Curtis. All  photos are reproductions from Special Collections:

Exhibit room:

In the exhibit case along the far (east) wall: Honoring Dr. James Church, University of Nevada Professor, Renaissance man, inventor and the "Father of the Snow Survey," with photographs, memorabilia and other artifacts, including pieces of the equipment he and his team used for capturing data about snow and other weather. Snowshoes courtesy of Greg Park.

On the walls: plans, drawings and photographs of Dr. Church's snow-related inventions, including his famous Mt. Rose snow sampler, still in use today.

In the exhibit case, north (left) side: Snowshoe Thompson, legendary winter postman of the Eastern Sierra and master of the longboard skis.

In the exhibit case south (right) side: The much chronicled Donner Party. Important books and photographs of monuments and the stumps that indicated the depth of the snow when party members cut firewood.

On the screen: a program on Snow, produced by the Discovery Channel alternating with the feature film Operation Haylift.


Halls and gallery walls:

In the hallway exhibit case, to the south (right): Operation Haylift,1949 and 1952, which used World War II Air Force cargo planes and pilots to save the livestock industry when sheep and cattle were stranded in the snow during some very bad winters. A feature film was made in the Ely area dramatizing the event. Telegrams, newspaper articles and other items are from the Gordon Griswold and Vail Pittman papers in Special Collections.

In the hallway exhibit case, to the north (left): The Winter Olympic Games at Squaw Valley, 1960. Items and photographs from the Senator Alan Bible Papers and the collection of Clarence Jones, who was the chair of the Nevada Civic Olympic Committee, among his many other accomplishments, and the Joseph F. McDonald papers.

In the exhibit case at the end of hallway (north): a photograph of a woman sledding in the 1920s and a vintage sled, courtesy of Jessica Maddox.

On the walls in the north hallway: Unframed historical photos of the Truckee Winter Carnival. 

On the north-side gallery wall: framed historical photos from of men and equipment managing snow on roads and railroad tracks.

On the east-side gallery wall (to the right of the entry to the exhibit room): framed historical photos of various ways to get around in the snow. 

On the south-side gallery wall:framed historical photos of motorized travel through snow -- automobiles and early snowmobiles.