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50 States of Preservation: Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

July 10, 2017
Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop perform
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From left, Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop perform during the ""Summit at the Sands"" January 20, 1960. Photo Date: 01/20/1960 

Image courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau.

This feature is part of a series we call “50 States of Preservation,” in which we are touring small and mid-sized museums, libraries, historical societies, and other repositories across the country to show how they are helping to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage.  Read other entries in the series here.

black and white photo of Las Vegas sign
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Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign designed by Betty Willis for Western Sign Company in 1959 Photo Date: 02/22/1960

Image courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau.
black and white photo of women onstage in costumes
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Circa 1949 El Rancho Dancing Dice Girls, Nancy Williams Don English/Las Vegas News Bureau Photo Date: 01/01/1949

Image courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau.

In the middle of the 20th century the city of Las Vegas and the surrounding region of Southern Nevada truly came into their own.  Construction boomed in the post-war era, including the Historic Westleigh Neighborhood and the Fabulous Flamingo Hotel.  The Las Vegas Strip grew out and then up, from its early days as Highway 91 through many iterations of hotels, motels, marquees, and attractions. 

black and white photo of people gathered around a gaming table
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Craps is played at the Golden Nugget in 1947.

Las Vegas News Bureau Photo Date: 01/01/1947 
black and white photo of the Hoover Dam at night
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The Hoover Dam is seen at night in July 1950. Photo Date: 07/01/1950

Don English/Las Vegas News Bureau

Frank Sinatra (and the Rat Pack) performed on Las Vegas stages hundreds of times.  The Beatles performed in Las Vegas in August 1964 during their first tour of the United States, and Elvis Presley married Priscilla Beaulieu at the Aladdin Hotel in 1967.  The government used the region as the site for atomic testing in the 1950s, and the News Bureau created the iconic “Miss Atomic Bomb” photo as a publicity stunt.  The U.S. Air Force’s World Congress of Flight was the first international air show in the country’s history, attracting participants from 51 countries and was the first convention held in the brand new Las Vegas Convention Center.

photo of people gathered around a birthday cake
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From left to right: Two De Castro Sisters, George Burns, Sandra Burns Luckman (George's daughter) Nat King Cole, Ted Lewis, and a De Castro Sister cutting Cole's birthday cake that reads, ""Happy Birthday Slugger"" at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada circa 1953-1955. original job number: H.S.-C9. Photo Date: 01/01/1953 

Las Vegas News Bureau.
photograph of building fronts in Las Vegas
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Fremont Street with the Nevada Club, Lucky Strike Club, Hotel Fremont, and Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, Nevada. 1954c. :original job number H-16202.  Photo Date: 01/01/1954

Las Vegas News Bureau.

At the end of World War II, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce created the “Live Wire” fund to finance a marketing campaign to promote Las Vegas as a leisure destination.  What is now known as the Las Vegas News Bureau was created in 1947 to further that aim.  Now part of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the Bureau collects and preserves the largest and most comprehensive collection of Southern Nevada imagery in the world—an estimated 3 million photographs, dating from 1947 to the present. 

black and white exterior view of a large convention center
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The exterior of the Las Vegas Convention Center on June 19, 1962. The marquee reads June 17-21 National Junior Chamber of Commerce. Photo Date: 06/19/1962

Las Vegas News Bureau
black and white photo of Judy Garland and Floyd Patterson
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Judy Garland jokes with boxer Floyd Patterson after his training session at the Dunes July 17, 1963. Photo Date: 07/17/1963

Don English/Las Vegas News Bureau

Two NEH Preservation Assistance Grants are helping to preserve these fragile photographic images.  “Many of our films were deteriorating rapidly in the metal canisters they were originally housed in,” explains Archivist Kelli Luchs, “and the materials purchased as part of the grant stemmed that decline.”  NEH funds supported a survey and recommendations from photograph conservation expert Monique C. Fischer of the Northeast Document Conservation Center.  A second award allowed the Bureau to remove a portion of the photographs and negatives from harmful conditions and rehouse them to be more easily accessible for the public.

Photo of a room with filing cabinets
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Photos of the Las Vegas News Bureau's vault that illustrate how we have improved our archival storage.  Thursday, May 11, 2017.

Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau
photo of folders on top of files in cabinet
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Photos of the Las Vegas News Bureau's vault that illustrate how we have improved our archival storage.  Thursday, May 11, 2017.

Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau.

The NEH grants, says Luchs, also catalyzed the LVCVA to digitize its collection of photographs and moving images.  “As we rehoused our materials we became cognizant of the need to create a digitization program as part of our current preservation work.  We have currently digitized over 600 films and 22,000 negatives.”  The LVCVA responds to 1,000 requests annually from around the world, and also puts on educational exhibitions in public venues throughout the year.  “The grants have allowed us to explore and preserve our collection,” says Luchs, “and catalog thousands of images that we have been able to share with the public through our photo/video requests and exhibitions.”

Film canister on top of filing box
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Photos of the Las Vegas News Bureau's vault that illustrate how we have improved our archival storage. Thursday, May 11, 2017.

CREDIT: Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau. 
black and white photograph looking down a crowded street, parade occurring
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The 20 mule Team Float sponsored by the El Cortez, Helldorado Old Timers Parade. 5/12/1950 Helldorado Days held an Old Timers Parade on Friday, Kiddies Parade on Saturday and the Beauty Parade on Sunday. The Sunday parade had floats sponsored by the hotels. Photo Date: 05/12/1950

Image courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau.

In every state, NEH supports organizations that preserve humanities collections.  Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions (PAGs) fund projects that help safeguard photographs, letters, documents, prints, moving images, sound recordings, maps, drawings, artworks, textiles, furniture, and artifacts, making them available for future generations.  These collections help researchers, educators, and members of the public better understand the complex stories of the various cities, towns, and tribal groups that make up our nation.

Since 2000, NEH has made nearly 2,000 Preservation Assistance Grants to small and mid-sized organizations to preserve and care for their humanities collections.  In all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, PAG awards have funded preservation assessments, purchase of shelving, environmental monitoring equipment, and preservation supplies, and training for staff.  Organizations in all states and U.S. territories are eligible to apply, and the program encourages applications from those new to NEH.  The next application deadline Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions is May 1, 2018.  If you have any questions about this grant program, please contact us at preservation@neh.gov or 202-606-8570.  

black and white view down the Las Vegas strip
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Strip 03/29/1968, Sands North Photo Date: 03/29/1968

Image courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau.

Funding information

Las Vegas Convention Center received NEH support through Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions, PG-50415-11 and PG-51608-12.