Discovered country

Nevada Discovery Museum

David Tesseo and Gretchen Kelley Bietz at the site of the future Nevada Discovery Museum.

David Tesseo and Gretchen Kelley Bietz at the site of the future Nevada Discovery Museum.


For more information about the Nevada Discovery Museum, visit

Right now, everyone who stands inside the future museum is wearing a hardhat. The ’60s-era building smells dusty, but there are definite signs of progress. The Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum (NVDM) will open a world of discovery to children in Northern Nevada, and it is projected to open toward the end of 2011. The museum will have taken six years from start to finish, and it is intended to enhance the alleged “Reno Renaissance” in the downtown area.

The NVDM is intended for children of all ages. While the ages of infant to 12 are the focus of the museum, teens and adults will also find the interactive space to be an entertaining and educational experience. The museum will be in the former Reno City Hall Building.

“The location was a major piece for us,” explains director of development Gretchen Kelley Bietz. “We wanted to be part of the downtown renaissance. It’s important for our community, and it’s really important for this neighborhood … it needs it!”

“It deserves it,” adds David Tesseo, the executive director. Over the past two decades, Tesseo has taken part in the creation of seven similar museums throughout the country, the most recent being the Explora Science Center in Albuquerque, N.M. Museum construction has been in the soft demolition and abatement phase since 2008, and the bulk of the major construction and remodeling will take place within the next year.

When completed, the facility will cover nearly 70,000 square feet, which includes lobby and tenant retail space, birthday party/multi-purpose rooms, a gift shop, an underground parking garage and administrative offices, in addition to the gallery space. No longer a bulky relic from 1964, the newly refurbished building has been outfitted in the latest 21st century green gear, such as rooftop solar panels and a Windspire Wind Turbine, which were donated by Black Rock Solar and Windspire Energy.

The NVDM will feature eight galleries geared toward children of different ages. That way, explains Kelley Bietz, parents can take children of multiple ages to the museum, and everyone will be entertained. The gallery Da Vinci’s Corner will appeal to older children. They can learn about the great artist and his fusion of art and science. Little Discoveries is geared toward the museum’s youngest guests. The largest of the eight galleries, Nevada Stories will teach children about key factors in the state’s history, including mining, ranching and Basque studies.

Any ambitious project is not without challenges, but organizers take pride in the museum’s progress, especially in an economic climate in which donors may be less willing to contribute large sums to philanthropic projects. Kelley Bietz credits the project’s steady progress to both the generous donations and volunteer hours from individuals and local organizations. The Terry Lee Wells Foundation posed a challenge to the NVDM: they would donate $4 million to the project if the museum would raise the other $2 million to cover ongoing operational costs.

“They took on the risk, and we took on the challenge,” says Kelley Bietz.

While admission to the museum is not free, organizers plan to work with community organizations and Washoe County schools to ensure that all students have the ability to enjoy the NVDM regardless of economic circumstance. Additionally, families will be able to purchase a family pass for around $100, which enables the entire family admission to the museum throughout the year. Both individual and family passes will be for sale in April or May of 2011.