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Image courtesy of The Neon Museum, Inc. Copyright held by The Neon Museum, Inc.
In a city like Las Vegas, where escapism and showiness rule, subtlety is not the name of the game. “The Las Vegas skyline is a neon one,” says Danielle Kelly, executive director of the town’s Neon Museum, “and we work to preserve this vibrant visual legacy.”
The museum opens officially for tours on October 27, with a new visitors’ center tucked into the lobby of the historic La Concha Motel and a re-imagined, two-acre boneyard. Specially designed lighting illuminates the collection of more than 150 donated or salvaged signs (most of which are no longer electrified) to great effect. And though it might seem unlikely that a pile of potential scrap metal is an essential storyteller, Kelly sees it plain as day.
“By celebrating the innovations of a relatively unsung art form from a city known more for entertainment than culture, the Neon Museum allows for a completely fresh perspective on Las Vegas,” she says. “These innovations have been influential in both the fields of architecture and design, and the museum creates an opportunity for the serious consideration of the significance of commercial architecture.”
Signs include examples from famous casinos, including the Stardust (closed in 2006) and the Aladdin (now the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino), and other local institutions, like the shuttered Green Shack restaurant. Locals and visitors alike will appreciate the craftsmanship. And though Kelly concedes that preservation can be at odds with the philosophies of a young city focused on reinvention, documenting its blindingly bright past is an eye-opener. “Some artifacts are only several years old,” she explains. “And yet they all tell not only the story of neon but also that of the social and cultural histories of Las Vegas.” 770 Las Vegas Blvd. N.; 702-387-6366; neonmuseum.org.