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Historic photos spark interest in new book depicting old Reno
by Cortney Maddock
Jun 11, 2008 | 2367 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Donnelyn Curtis, a librarian in charge of Special Collections at the University of Nevada, Reno, is the author of the new book “Historic Photos Of Reno.”
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Donnelyn Curtis, a librarian in charge of Special Collections at the University of Nevada, Reno, is the author of the new book “Historic Photos Of Reno.”
The Reno skyline has changed dramatically since the city’s booming streets saw Ford Model-Ts roll down them. In the book “Historic Photos Of Reno,” Reno’s history is captured in black and white photographs and compiled into an interesting glimpse into the past.

The more than 200-page book was compiled at the request of the Turner Publishing Company, which has released other historic photo books of cities from Albuquerque to Anaheim, West Point to Wilmington and others.

Donnelyn Curtis, a librarian in charge of Special Collections at the University of Nevada, Reno Getchell Library, helped the publisher choose photos for the book and is given credit for authoring it.

“Reno history, I think, wasn’t quite covered with the photos they chose,” Curtis said. “So it was a collaborative effort.”

Curtis, who has been working at the UNR library for 10 years, explained that the Turner Publishing Company wanted photos of celebrities and bigger Reno events.

“Special Collections specialized in the history of the region,” Curtis explained. “We have a subject area scope and we have subjects outside that scope, we have things that need special protection.”

Part of that collection was an overwhelming number of historical photos.

“Special collections has between 100,000 and 300,000 photos,” Curtis said.

Curtis explained that while the Special Collections Department has an amazing number of photos, the Nevada Historical Society houses more than 300,000 historical photos.

A flip through the pages of the coffee-table book reveals highly detailed black and white photos of historic floods, Nevada World War II veterans and the rodeo.

“I found the rodeo photographs and rodeo parade photographs,” Curtis said. “In researching that, I found that the rodeo used to have a rodeo week and people would dress up.”

Curtis said she hopes that the book helps spark people’s interest to further research the events photographed.

“I think they did a good job of preserving the photos and the detail,” Curtis said. “A lot of the best photos were donated by local Dr. Herz. We really appreciate what he’s given us.”

Curtis said that the Special Collections Department encourages people who believe they have something historical to donate it. In addition, the library is in the process of scanning the photos to be viewed as “digital collections” at

Curtis also explained that with limited space, she was only able to include limited information in the photo captions.

“I think different people will enjoy different things, so we tried to put in a variety,” Curtis said. “I hope it would inspire people to learn more.”

Curtis said that one of her favorite photographs is on page 177 because of the caption information. The photo captures air guard members at the Stead Air Force Base’s counter-brainwashing school. The base was given to the city of Reno in 1966 and sold to Bill Lear in 1968.

“Lear was trying to come up with alternative energy for cars,” Curtis explained of Lear’s use for the base. “He’s best known for the Lear Jet.”

Rich with Reno history, the photos are intriguing. Curtis’ effort to help capture interesting moments in Reno history has paid off and she will be doing a book signing on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble on S. Virginia Street in Reno.

“Some of this history is still represented in Reno,” Curtis said. “It’s just hidden.”

To discover more about the photos, a copy of “Historic Photos Of Reno” can be purchased by going to or at Barnes & Nobel for $39.95.

Curtis also invites people to view UNR’s Special Collections. UNR is in the process of moving Getchell Library’s contents to the new Knowledge Center but people can set up an appointment to view the collections by calling 682-5565. The Knowledge Center will open in August and the phone number will stay the same.
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