Alicia Barber

Historian, Time & Place

Alicia Barber, PhD, is a professional historian and award-winning writer whose work focuses on the built environment and cultural history of Nevada and the American West. After earning a doctorate in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003, she moved to Reno, where she taught at the University of Nevada, Reno for the next ten years, and directed the University of Nevada Oral History Program from 2009-2013.

She is the author of the book Reno’s Big Gamble: Image and Reputation in the Biggest Little City as well as multiple articles and chapters for both popular and scholarly publications, and the co-founder and editor of Reno Historical (renohistorical.org), a map-based smart phone app and website that identifies and describes historic sites throughout the city. Founder of the historical consulting firm Stories in Place, Dr. Barber collaborates frequently with government agencies, museums, artists, architects, and community groups on projects ranging from oral histories to historical displays and exhibits. In 2014 she was honored with the Silver Pen Award from the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.

Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries.

The property surrounding Lake Tahoe is some of the most sought-after real estate in the region, but how that property is used has changed dramatically over time. Historian Alicia Barber tells the story of one family’s longtime association with Lake Tahoe in this segment of Time & Place.

Courtesy of the Nevada State Museum, Carson City.

Every school strives to give its students an education, but many have additional goals beyond just academics. In this segment of “Time & Place,” historian Alicia Barber discusses one type of government-run Nevada school created not just to give its students something, but also to take something away. 

Photo by Edward Olsen, courtesy of Special Collections Department of the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries

Every season, wildfires pose a threat to lives and property throughout our region. And those on the front lines of fighting those fires are often in the greatest danger of all. Historian Alicia Barber looks back at the history of fighting wildland fires in this segment of “Time & Place.”

Photo courtesy of UNLV Libraries Special Collections & Archives, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

The great American road trip is a cultural institution, with cars full of travelers touring the country every summer. But for some, it’s the car itself that’s the main attraction. Historian Alicia Barber explains in this segment of “Time & Place.” 

A black and white photo of a man sitting at a desk turned to his left, shaking the hand of a man standing. Seven other people stand behind the two men shaking hands, all formally dressed.
Courtesy of Special Collections Department, University of Nevada, Reno

The federal Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, but for years before that, activists across the country were campaigning for equal rights in their own communities. Historian Alicia Barber takes us back to one important Reno campaign in this episode of “Time & Place.”

Reno's Chinatown

Jul 5, 2018
A black and white photo from 1900 in Reno's Chinatown.
Courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society

When someone mentions Chinatown, the cities of San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles might come to mind, but Chinatowns were once common throughout the American West. Historian Alicia Barber takes a closer look at one of them in this episode of Time & Place.

Summers at Deer Park

Jun 21, 2018
A black and white photo of several people jumping into a pool in Reno.
Courtesy of Sparks Museum & Cultural Center

Summer is a busy time for city parks, especially those with swimming pools. Historian Alicia Barber tells the story of one area favorite in this episode of “Time & Place.”

A black and white family photo
Special Collections Department, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries

These days, women run for every level of political office, from local to national races. But in the 1970s, the public was still getting used to female candidates. Historian Alicia Barber takes us behind the scenes of one Nevada woman’s political campaign in this episode of “Time & Place.”

A dated postcard of the Sands Casino at night.
Steve Ellison

Today, some of Reno’s largest hotel casinos are located miles from the city center.  But they were once confined to a much smaller area, as Alicia Barber explains in this episode of “Time & Place.”

Unlike Las Vegas, Reno never had a strip, a part of town made up entirely of casinos. But it did have the “red line,” a virtual border that surrounded a four-block area just south of the railroad tracks. Only casinos inside the line could offer an unlimited number of slot machines and table games.

A black and white image of Reno's original railroad depot in 1868, where some figures stand by three sets of tracks.
Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries

May 9th was a big day for Reno.  It marked the 150th anniversary of the city’s founding back in 1868.  Historian Alicia Barber gives us the scoop on how it all began in this episode of Time & Place.

It’s entirely  possible to stand in the heart of downtown Reno today and not even realize that a railroad runs straight through it. The tracks were lowered below ground in 2006. Until then, waiting at a crossing for a train to pass by was a Reno ritual dating back to the very beginning.

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