Historic Las Vegas Neon Signs Are Shining Again

04 February, 2018

Las Vegas, Nevada is a city famous for its exciting nightlife.

One of the main streets is called The Las Vegas Strip. It has many large hotels and casinos, places where people can watch shows when they are not playing games of chance. Nearly all the buildings have bright, neon signs.

Now, a new museum will give visitors a chance to see famous neon signs from the earliest days of Las Vegas.

Forty signs from some of the city's most famous casino-hotels and other businesses are shining once again at the Neon Museum. But their lights are not truly on.

Over the years, the signs have been worn down by the weather, hot sunshine and desert winds. But a process called projection mapping has been used to bring the signs back to life. Projection mapping creates life-like digital animations of the signs onto the metal.

Rob McCoy is the president of the Neon Museum. He told the Associated Press "We are combining art, history and technology in this space. This is Las Vegas as it was. It is very emotional. Even people who don't live here, but live around the United States or around the world, they all have in their heads a romantic image of Las Vegas, and it's usually that vintage, neon Las Vegas."

The new museum has the signs of the Golden Nugget, Lady Luck, and Binion's Horseshoe.

The museum presents a special 30-minute long show after sunset. Visitors are permitted to walk freely and get close to the signs.

Songs like Elvis Presley's "Night Life," ″Mr. Sandman" by The Chordettes and Ella Fitzgerald's "I'm Beginning to See The Light" play as each sign lights up.

Las Vegas Neon Museum
Las Vegas Neon Museum

In the United States, neon signs were first used at the 1893 World Fair in Chicago. But no city used the bright tube lights like Las Vegas. Many of the old signs are kept at the museum, but not all of them work.

Visitors can only imagine what the signs looked like 30 or more years ago. Repairing the signs can cost tens of thousands of dollars each. Projection mapping is a less costly process to show what they once looked like lighted up.

Craig Winslow is the digital artist and designer who helped create the museum's neon sign exhibit. He used old photographs, video and other information to digitally recreate each sign. He then used a scanning process to set the exact placement of eight projectors to align everything with the light bulbs, rusted metal and tubes of the signs.

"There are moments here where there's no bulb, but I've created a digital bulb that is in its place," Winslow said. "From far away it just looks like the sign is lit. You get up closer, and you realize all these are broken or there are missing bulbs or hanging bulbs."

Historical video of the city will be projected onto the signs as well. Some of the video shows the famous performer Liberace playing the piano and gamblers playing table games.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Regina Garcia Cano reported this story for the Associated Press. Jonathan Evans adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

align – v. to organize things so that they form a line or are in the right position

casino – n. a building or room that has games of chance, such as roulette or blackjack

neon – n. a colorless gas

museum – n. a building where interesting and sometimes valuable objects are collected and shown to the public

illuminated – adj. lit by bright lights

vintage – adj. used to describe something that is not new but that is valued because of its good condition or design

digital animation – n. a process for creating moving images