They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and with its collection of more than 200 iconic neon signs, the Las Vegas Neon Museum is no doubt a beautiful sight to see. Housing over 80 years of Las Vegas signage dating back to the 1930s, a visit to the museum’s six acre Neon Boneyard can be likened to a unique and illuminating history lesson of the Vegas strip.
A stop at the museum’s campus is quite a spectacle, and that is exactly the point. The Neon Museum works toward one goal – “to ensure that not a single piece of Las Vegas signage is ever lost.” Founded in 1996, the Neon Museum is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization whose mission statement says they are dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment.
Las Vegas has always been known for its neon signs, they served as a “status symbol” — the bigger and better the sign, the bigger and better the casino.
All signs are donated, many of them by the Young Electric Company Sign Co. (YESCO), and there is a shared belief amongst the museum’s members, volunteers and sponsors that not only are the signs important pieces of art, they each tell a unique story. A story best told by seeing the signs in all their neon glory.
Visitors to the museum are able to visually take in all that it has to offer through guided day and night tours. Tours that have recently been enhanced by the use of projection mapping. Many of the signs in the collection do not light up as they once did, and restoring them is no easy feat. Projection mapping allows digital animation and images to be displayed by projectors on the signs giving them the feel as if they were restored.
The power of projection mapping is best experienced in the museum’s special 30-minute show titled “Brilliant!” Set to music, “Brilliant!” is designed not only to entertain but to captivate visitors who are surrounded by displayed signs.
While the organization was founded in 1996, the Neon Boneyard officially opened in 2012. In the six years since, the campus has grown to include a visitor’s center that is housed in the original lobby of the La Concha Motel, designed by Paul Revere Williams, and a second Neon Boneyard (the North Gallery). The North Gallery has become a unique site for special events such as photo shoots, educational programs and even weddings.
The Neon Museum’s reach stretches beyond its campus walls. The museum works with the community to preserve old signs currently on display as an alternative to having them replaced. They also work with current venues to ensure that if the decision is made to remove its signage, that those signs are donated to the museum.
One recent effort is a campaign to preserve the distinct guitar sign from the now closed Hard Rock Café. While the sign has been donated by YESCO, acquiring the sign is only part of the journey to bring the sign back to life. Relocating a huge neon sign is not easy and it is not cheap—the Neon Museum is currently collecting contributions to cover the transportation, installation, and future maintenance of the familiar guitar sign.
The Neon Museum is also a part of the Las Vegas Signs Project–an initiative that works to put historic signs back in downtown Las Vegas. Working with the City of Las Vegas, an area of Las Vegas Boulevard was deemed a Federal Scenic Byway allowing restored signs to be displayed as public art. Currently, there are nine restored signs that are part of the project, including the Silver Slipper, the Lucky Cuss Hotel and the 5th Street Liquor Sign.
If you’re looking to experience the sparkle and beauty of Las Vegas in a unique way, set your sights on a visit to the Neon Museum and take a moment to embrace the Workshop Hero motto “Less Work, More Play.”
To learn more about the Neon Museum and their preservation of Las Vegas Neon signs, visit: http://www.neonmuseum.org