Conducting the Survey
The survey was divided
into three phases. The first included Las Vegas Boulevard and its
environs from Sunset Rd. to Sahara Blvd. The second will include
the LV Blvd. corridor from Sahara to Fremont, the Fremont Street
area, and section of the Boulder Strip and Charleston Blvd. The
third, and most ambitious phase, will include the balance of Las
Vegas and Clark County.
Having chosen to tackle
phase one, the next step was to find some money to conduct the survey.
Located in Las Vegas, which is in the heart of Nevada, the Nevada
Humanities Committee seemed like a natural for such a project.
For those who don't know,
applying for a grant is much harder than simply picking up the phone
and asking for a little cash to tide you over until payday. The
people who sponsor academic research like to know that their money
is being well spent, so they have prospective researchers fill out
The neon survey application,
if you are interested, was about ten pages long, with a plethora
of information on the applicant organization (Neon Museum), the
proposed budget, and a detailed discourse on why the Neon Museum
was uniquely suited to carry out this project, and why it was so
important in the first place.
Why do a survey?
So why was this survey
important? Well, because the signs we documented included some of
the oldest and most siginificant signs still working in Las Vegas.
Even though when many people think of neon when they think of Las
Vegas, precious little has been done to actually document the extent
and nature of the neon signs of Las Vegas. This survey redresses
that failure by providing historical and design information on nearly
100 signs in the Las Vegas Boulevard corridor.
The survey was actually
executed by Josh Cannaday. Josh took all of the photographs included
in this exhibit (except for the photos of him on this page, of course)
and conducted exhaustive historical research into the signs.
As the project scholar,
Dr. Schwartz's primary mission was to stay out of Josh's way and to facilitate
his conducting the survey. He also designed this exhibit as a way
of fulfulling the grant application's mission of making the information
learned accessible to the general community.
The survey fit in well
with Dr. Schwartz's other digital projects for the Center for Gaming Research, which illuminate various areas of the gaming and casino
worlds. So it was easy to adapt the raw material of the survey to
an online exhibit in the CGR's Virtual Museum.
About the survey tool
The 80+ surveys that make up this site were executed using a two-part survey tool.
The first part of the tool was used to capture a physical description
of the sign as artifact. The sign's location, condition, display
type, and animation, among other things, were included in this section.
Essentially, this part
of the survey is designed to preserve historical information about
the signs of the Strip--something that is certainly important in
a district as historically volatile as the Strip. There is little
danger of the Liberty Bell, for example, being swapped out for an
electronic alert system, but it is entirely possible that, within
ten years, the signs of the Frontier and Stardust will be no more.
There is nothing morally wrong with this--change is an essential
part of any business, particularly the hospitality business. But
it is important to preserve a record of these signs so that future
generation can appreciate the incredible flowering of neon in Southern
Nevada that began in the 1940s.
The second half of the
survey is a little more subjective, as it describes a sign's artistic
context. In addition to information about the sign's designer and
manufacturer, this part of the survey includes comments on the artistic
influences on the sign and its ultimate aesthetic significance for
other signs and buildings. In this way, the survey provides raw
data and the grist for future interpretation, as well as a descriptive
guide to the world of Strip neon.
What the surveyor
Finally, here is a description
of the survey in the surveyor's words:
"The stretch of
land on the western side of the Las Vegas Valley proclaims one of
the most dazzling streets in the entire Western United States. Las
Vegas Boulevard may perhaps be one of the most unique streets in
the entire world. The electrifying spectaculars and pulsating neon
and incandescent towers are a key factor in contributing to that
uniqueness. Not only are they integral aesthetically,but worthy
of cultural and historical significance in the continuing evolution
of the city of Las Vegas. To even begin to note such a vast array
of information, we must start somewhere. The Las Vegas Neon Museum
is starting on this journey by conducting a survey of exterior neon
signs on Las Vegas Blvd., from Sunset Rd., stretching north to Sahara
It is such a broad spectrum of information. Where does one begin?
Once a survey tool was organized to collect the proper information,
a variety of methods were utilized to attain such figures. A glossary
of terms was also organized to collect a series of terminology that
is consistent with the subject matter. Through research conducted
with UNLV's Special Collections, the County's department of records,
physical inspection, interviews with marketing and public relations
officials of both surveyed properties and sign companies, a very
firm grasp has been gained on the scope and impact of such a collection
of items. All of the while the signs were visually documented then
processed into the survey form.
The survey has provided me with a unique opportunity learn about
the electric life that pumps through the heart of Las Vegas, and
witness first hand up close the structures that facilitate them.
My experiences are only the very first step in a series of research
that could possibly blanket the entire valley, putting this so commonly
associated genre of exterior aesthetics into a cultural and historical
more about the survey tool, view the sample,
which includes a point by point explanation.