Glowing With History

Even Las Vegas believes in preserving the past

By: Ryan Slattery

Even though Las Vegas is famous for being the one city that won’t hesitate in imploding a landmark building or discarding a historical sign, it is doing a fairly good job at holding on and remembering its past. And with Las Vegas having celebrated the city’s centennial in May we thought what better time than now to take a peek at the city’s neon history with a look at some of the museums scattered around town.

Here’s a quick rundown for your clients.

Art and Culture

The opening of Wynn Las Vegas in April saw the return of one of the finest private art collections in the world. Once again casino mogul Steve Wynn has put more than a dozen paintings by artists such as Gauguin, Monet and Picasso on display for all to see as part of The Wynn Collection.

It joins two other high-profile exhibits. On loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, comes a collection titled The Impressionist Landscape from Corot to Van Gogh at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. It showcases 34 masterworks by 16 of the world’s most renowned artists including Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir.

The Venetian’s Guggenheim Hermitage Museum’s latest exhibit, through July 31, is The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt. It’s the largest collection of its kind to be loaned by Egypt for exhibition in North America.

Also, through Oct. 31 the Tropicana is hosting Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition featuring more than 300 authentic artifacts including a 15-ton section of ship’s hull fetched from the RMS Titanic wreck site 2½ miles beneath the North Atlantic Ocean.

History and Learning

For clients looking to make their trip an educational one, there are several spots to visit. Go back in time at the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society where exhibits explain how American Indians survived in the harsh Mojave Desert climate and find out what early settlers found when they arrived in the Silver State.

The Las Vegas Natural History Museum includes dinosaur fossils, African and wildlife rooms and an animated 35-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus rex. It is conveniently located across from the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum with more than 100 kid-friendly, interactive exhibits.

Those fascinated by Bugsy Siegel, the mob and just gambling in general will enjoy the Casino Legends Hall of Fame at the Tropicana. It houses a variety of casino memorabilia including old photographs, slot machines, gaming chips and more.

And although not technically a museum, the Hoover Dam is an impressive sight worthy of the trip and walking tour.

Fun Stuff

When two of the biggest and most flamboyant entertainers of all time performed in your city and called it home for a period of time, you better dedicate a museum to them. Las Vegas did. After all, there needs to be some gathering place for all those Elvis and Liberace impersonators.

The Elvis-A-Rama Museum has more than 2,000 of the King’s personal items, including Elvis’ jewelry, clothing, letters and his purple Lincoln. Over at the Liberace Museum you’ll find rhinestone-studded pianos and a costume and wardrobe gallery that would make today’s divas blush with envy.

If authenticity doesn’t really matter but you still want to pose with some famous celebrities, check out Madame Tussaud’s, the home of more than 100 wax figures the likes of which include John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Tiger Woods, Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey. It’s at the Venetian.

And believe it or not there was a time when Nevada (and Las Vegas in particular) held a soft spot for the nuclear testing going on in the desert. The Atomic Testing Museum captures that history with photo exhibits and kitschy pop culture items such as a mixed-drink book titled “Atomic Cocktails.” The Ground Zero Theater, designed after the concrete bunkers used at the original test site complete with wooden benches and red warning lights, shows video of an above-ground detonation. Pick up an Albert Einstein action figure on your way out.

If a nuclear glow isn’t for you but nostalgia is, the Neon Museum is a downtown, outdoor walking tour past some classic, refurbished Las Vegas signs. There is also a sign “boneyard,” a fenced off dirt lot, that is the resting place of dozens of historic signs yet to be restored. Boneyard tours for 10 or more are available by special appointment.


Neon Museum

Atomic Testing Museum

Madame Tussaud’s

Liberace Museum

The Elvis-A-Rama Museum

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

Nevada State Museum and Historical Society

Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art

The Wynn Collection

Casino Legends Hall of Fame

Hoover Dam