In 1967, Las Vegas was a much different place. Just emerging from a recession, the area population inched closer to 250,000 as new housing developments and shopping centers spread across the valley. Caesars Palace and the Aladdin had just opened, and Howard Hughes bought the Desert Inn. Siegfried and Roy debuted at the Tropicana, and Frank Sinatra, after a punch-up with the Sands Hotel casino boss, took his star to the new Caesars Palace showroom. Elvis and Priscilla Presley married at the Aladdin, and Evel Knievel crashed his motorcycle attempting to jump over Caesars’ fountains. The Nevada Legislature passed a law allowing public companies to obtain gaming licenses, and the Nevada Gaming Control Board created the infamous “Black Book.”
Nevada Southern University, as UNLV was called then, had just seven buildings and 3,902 students. Construction on the second and third stories of the circular library building (now housing the William S. Boyd School of Law) drew to completion, and the library was named in honor of James R. Dickinson, the first full-time faculty member assigned to Las Vegas. In the new second floor space, library director Hal Erickson established a new department, Special Collections, to house the library’s collections of Nevada history, gaming, and the university archives.
Fifty years after its founding, Special Collections and Archives celebrates this milestone with a selection of 50 items pulled from our collections — treasures of our region. Curated by Su Kim Chung and Peter Michel, 50 Treasure for 50 Years contains historical documents and artifacts that represent themes, topics, and individuals that illustrate the depth and scope of our collections today.
For 50 years, Special Collection and Archives has supported UNLV, the University Libraries, and the Southern Nevada community in fostering discoveries, increasing knowledge, advancing research, and contributing to the betterment of our community. Historical images and research material from collections like those highlighted in the exhibit have been a source for museums, documentaries, books, television shows, magazines, research papers, and exhibits - helping create new knowledge about Las Vegas, Southern Nevada, and gaming for millions around the world.
The trust and generosity of the countless supporters in the community who have entrusted the University Libraries with their photographs, personal documents, business and organization records, and other ephemora has enabled Special Collections and Archives to build the unparalleled collections that are highlighted in this exhibit.
The 50 Treasures for 50 Years exhibit, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Special Collections and Archives, will be on display on the first floor of Lied Library through the end of 2017.