Now officials hope to replace about 80 of the 260 markers around the state with new plaques in time for Nevada’s 150th statehood anniversary in 2014.
Ron James, Nevada’s historic preservation officer, reviewed all the text on all the markers, and graded them on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the worst.
“Most markers date to the 1960s and 1970s, and many things have changed since then,” James said. “Some of it is inaccuracy, some of it is insensitivity and some is just bad writing.
“It gets a two or a three if it’s just clumsy writing,” James said.
The only 10 on the list is in Elko County. Marker No. 48 in Tuscarora mentions the “hordes” of Chinese who came to the mining camp.
Efforts were made to eliminate the notion of a “them” and “we” mentality, James said.
The old markers, “really talked about how ‘we’ interacted with ‘them,’” he said. “Can you imagine being a 12-year-old member of an ethnicity that is being depicted that way?” he asked. “Changing that is a real critical thing.”
Only the new language is now found on the state’s historical marker website.
“We’re not putting the worst of the worst on the web page to show how horrible the language is,” James said.
Some monuments are being taken down because they are no longer relevant or are offensive in today’s society. One referenced where the “first white child” was born.
“They’re embarrassing, I think, for the state of Nevada,” James said. “There was no way I could fix that marker and make it relevant to the 21st Century.”
Others are just wrong, like Marker No. 86 at Tule Springs at Floyd Lamb Park, an archaeological site that references the presence of humans thousands of years before they were known to be there.
The Nevada Historical Marker Program began as part of the state’s centennial celebration in 1964. The state Historic Preservation Office manages the markers, but most funding has been eliminated in recent years because of budget cuts.
James said the state Department of Transportation helps support existing markers, there’s no funding to change the text or install new ones.
That’s why the Nevada Foundation for Cultural Affairs is seeking donations from individuals and businesses to help. Each marker costs about $1,000 to replace, and the foundation is hoping to raise $80,000 to meets its goal.
James said the markers will be replaced as money becomes available.