Thousands of people view items from our Special Collections every day, even though they have never visited Lied Library. Our online digital projects and exhibits are nationally recognized and attract thousands of visits annually. But where in Las Vegas or in Nevada have you seen our historical photograph collection? Here are just a few places where our images have been displayed or have been part of an exhibit, just in the last four years.
UNLV Center for Gaming Research Director Dr. David Schwartz appears in exhibit videos at the “Mob Museum.”
Perhaps the most prominent and spectacular display of our photographs is in the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, or as it is better known, The Mob Museum, where hundreds of our images are incorporated into its extensive galleries. Other museums which have used our collection include the Springs Preserve, the Atomic Testing Museum, the Neon Museum, the Fifth Street School, Lorenzi Park, the Clark County Museum, the Red Rock Visitors Center, the Nevada State Museum, the Clark County Wetlands Park, the Caville Bay Exhibit-Lake Mead National Recreational Area, the Old Fort State Park, and the Burlesque Hall of Fame. And, if you travel further outside city limits, you will find our images at the Kyle Canyon National Park, Corn Creek Visitors Center, Death Valley National Park, the Lost City Museum, Great Basin National Park Visitors Center, the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, and the Discovery Museum in Reno.
But museums are not the only facilities in which you’ll find our photographs. You may have seen them on Clark County banners hung along the median on the Strip, or perhaps in the proposed new F Street graphic tile artwork display in Las Vegas’ West Side. If you have visited public buildings you have seen them in the Regional District Court, Clark County Public Works building, Nevada Water Resources office, Opportunity Village, the State Historic Preservation Office, Las Vegas High School Alumni Association Building, City of Henderson government offices, the Community Club House in Goodsprings, the Summerlin PGA Tour building, the Ethel M Chocolate Factory, or in the Signature Flight Support Facility.
And when you visit Las Vegas resorts you have seen our photographs in the Cosmopolitan, the Tropicana, Las Vegas Hilton, Las Vegas Renaissance Hotel, D Hotel, and the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino. Architects and interior designers rely on our collection to enhance and theme their projects.
Chances are that you have seen our collections on television in “Vegas,” “CSI,” and in any number of episodes of the History and Travel Channels, the Netflix series “House of Cards,” or “Las Vegas: An Unconventional History” on PBS’s The American Experience. As Peter Michel, head of exhibits for the UNLV Libraries, observes, “our photograph collection is the most popular of all our collections, and is a preeminent visual resource for the history of Las Vegas whether in exhibits, television, movies, books, magazines, websites, or simply in offices and restaurants.” It is hard to imagine much of what now constitutes our popular image of Las Vegas without this collection. “Because it is such a rich and important collection for illustrating Las Vegas history, it has provided UNLV Libraries the welcome opportunity to assist and collaborate with other local cultural institutions which share our mission of telling the story of Las Vegas,” Michel explains. “It would have been difficult for either the Mob Museum or the Springs Preserve, for example, to create their exhibits without our assistance and the use of our collections. This is the kind of mutually beneficial collaboration that we at UNLV Libraries feel is so important—to bring our collections out of the academic setting and into the public eye.”
Michel’s sentiment is echoed by Jonathan Ullman, executive director of the Mob Museum, who says “UNLV Special Collections contains a treasure trove of rare and historically significant photographs. They have greatly enriched The Mob Museum’s exhibition, providing insight to early Las Vegas that otherwise would not be possible.”
Over the years, UNLV Libraries has acquired more than 100,000 photographs. All were donated by individuals, businesses, casinos, public organizations, local publications and photographers. Of these, approximately 10,000 are available for viewing online at digital.library.unlv.edu . Another 10,000 will be added to this portal in the next several months. As more funding becomes available through private donations and grants, the entire collection will be digitized and made accessible to everyone.
We invite you to also visit Special Collections in Lied Library and lose yourself exploring this rich agglomeration of photographs and other materials; and discover evidence of our community’s distinction and complexity.