This Saturday, May 21, the Sparks Museum & Cultural Center is debuting a new exhibit with the Sparks Police Department titled, “Where Community Comes First: The History of the Sparks Police Department”. The museum will be free to visit this upcoming Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Historic and new-age Sparks Police vehicles will be parked out front as well as maybe a special appearance from the department’s K-9 unit.
Curated in part by Sparks Police Officer Ian Carl and supported by the rest of the department, the “Where Community Comes First” exhibit will showcase photographs, artifacts, uniforms, and training gear that has been used to keep the City of Sparks safe over the past century.
Sparks Museum Executive Director Dr. Christine Johnson says that the idea for creating the semi-permanent exhibit came from Officer Carl, who has always been very interested in the history of the police department and wanted to share its story.
“The police department approached me a year ago; there used to be an officer named Jim Goodwin who was the historian for the PD in the 1960s-1980s. He typed up documents, collected information, and saved a lot of artifacts from other officers. They’ve been bringing things in to help tell the story,” says Johnson, who has been helping put the exhibit together for the past two weeks.
“There’s such a sense of community around this exhibit, especially with the officers themselves both active and retired. The police department has been here since the beginning of the City and it’s amazing what they’ve kept. I think this is our most complete historical collection; we know the City’s first police chief and the first two officers he hired,” Johnson adds.
The exhibit also features the panels taken from a refurbished jail cell that were used in the Sparks holding station on C Street in 1941. Johnson is especially excited to introduce this feature to the public as it’s one of the more interactive components of the exhibit, allowing people to take pictures behind the bars of the old jail cell.
“We called Jeff Schomberg (who made several metal sculptures in the Sparks/Reno area) and he picked up these heavy panels and took them to a shop that could clear the patina and rust off, make them shine again,” Johnson explains.
The O’Connell family has also been extremely supportive, of both the department and the museum. Lloyd O’Connell moved to the area in 1943 and his son Roy worked for Sparks PD. While living in Sparks, Lloyd served as a city councilman, was on the City of Sparks Parks & Recreation committee, represented the City on the Regional Transportation Commission, and was active on the Sparks Downtown Redevelopment Agency in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Lloyd was also a founding member of the Sparks Heritage Museum.
This new exhibit coincides with National Police Week going on right now; in honor of the event anyone in law enforcement and first responders from anywhere can visit the museum for free this week. Members of the public can attend this Sparks Museum exhibit opening for free between 10am-4pm this Saturday, May 21.
The Sparks Museum is located at 814 Victorian Avenue in downtown Sparks. Parking for the museum is available on C Street behind the building, and the museum’s front desk attendants may provide a parking pass for your vehicle. Additional parking is also available on Victorian Avenue and at the Deco apartments.
“This exhibit allows us to infuse new stories into it as the City evolves. Every day is a new opportunity for new history to be included,” Johnson says.
For more information about the Sparks Museum & Cultural Center, visit http://sparksmuseum.org/.