Stardust sign, with a Hard Rock sign on the right

Las Vegas evokes many things, but the image it most conjures up is that of bright and multi-coloured neon signs. Many of these iconic signs have been collected and put on display at the Neon Museum in downtown Las Vegas.

Like the Ignite Sign Museum in Tucson, which I recently wrote about in, this museum in Vegas concentrates on local signs. I assume that due to the virus the indoor exhibit space and education centre of the museum has not opened yet; it is located across the road from the neon sign displays. The museum is mostly outdoors, where the signs are collected in an aptly-named boneyard. The visitors’ centre is housed inside the former La Concha Motel lobby, which is a truly iconic architectural masterpiece in its own right from 1961. Take special notice of the tiled artpiece in the lobby, inspired by the shape of the building: it was created by amateur astronomer Ben Mayer who died in 2000.

Visitor centre was the La Concha motel lobby

Many of the signs are huge, and as some are behind others or lying on their side, it is not always easy to get back far enough to read the words they spell out. The great Stardust sign, which stood from 1958 to 2006, was dismantled into 9 pieces which are scattered here. At 188 feet, the Stardust sign was the tallest in the world.

As its website states, “Founded in 1996, The Neon Museum is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment.”

I fully endorse this organization, and I call upon the ultra-rich casino owners of Las Vegas to get their heads out of their gaming tables and art collections and step up to help The Neon Museum in their mission. Give them the space needed to properly display their collection, and chip in a couple million bucks to restore the signs they already have. Especially a fully reconstructed  Stardust sign, which can once again shine over Las Vegas and serve as the centrepiece of this important museum of not just Las Vegas history, but American history.

The Neon museum celebrated its one millionth visitor in January 2020. The interest in neon is strong, so get behind it Vegas!

Be sure to get the 24-page illustrated booklet, which offers a history of some of the famous signs here. The website is excellent and contains many features not obvious at first glance. I will just give a link here to one of the many fascinating pages, dealing with movies that have used the neon signs here:

The Boneyard at the Neon Museum is available to the public from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. on most days; many of the signs are lit for evening visits. Location: 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North.

Photos by Dr C Cunningham

Stardust sign, with a Hard Rock sign on the right