About the Project

University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) Libraries partnered with the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Libraries, Nevada Historical Society (NHS), the Nevada Neon Project, the UNR History Department, and the Reynolds School of Journalism (RSJ) to create a digital archive comprised of images of neon signs curated from Nevada cities and towns. Starting in Fall 2020, project members photographed neon signs in situ and digitized and created metadata for images of neon signs held by Nevada memory institutions to preserve this uniquely Nevadan cultural heritage. The digital files are preserved by UNLV and combined with their collections to create a state-wide repository that is freely accessible and shared with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). UNR created and maintained a website that allows users to learn about and interact with the collection.

This website is supported by the Northern Nevada Neon LSTA grant awarded by the Nevada State Library, Archives, and Public Records. The grant was co-written by Amy Hunsaker and Teresa Schultz, UNR Libraries, Chris Church, UNR History, and Katherine Hepworth from the Reynolds School of Journalism.  UNLV, the Nevada Historical Society (NHS), and the Nevada Neon Project partnered on this grant. Jay Arellano, UNR grant-supported project intern, created descriptive metadata for all objects. Max Stone, a UNR graduate student, oversaw marketing for the project, including the project’s Instagram account.

  • Acquisition: Digital images from Will Durham (Director, Nevada Neon Project), physical images from NHS, images provided by Katherine Hepworth, and images provided by other Nevada memory institutions were curated by Amy Hunsaker and Teresa Schultz.
  • Preservation: The files from the Northern Nevada Neon project were ingested into UNLV's digital asset management system and will be sustained into the future using their long-term file management plan.
  • Creation: Chris Church created a website that provides access to the digital assets held by UNLV. The interface was developed, housed, and maintained on the UNR Shared History Linux server.
  • Description: The project incorporated an expanded metadata schema developed by UNLV for their digitized neon collection. Jay Arellano created item-level metadata for each digital image and worked with UNLV to ensure the proper implementation of standards.
  • Preservation: The files from the Northern Nevada Neon project were ingested into UNLV's digital asset management system and sustained into the future using their long-term file management plan.

The Collections Included on this Website

515 images were included as part of the “Neon in Nevada: A Survey of Contemporary and Historic Neon Signs in Nevada” by Chelsea Miller. These were commissioned by the Nevada Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology in 1983. Scans from the glass negatives were provided to us by the Nevada Historical Society.

Sheila Swan and Peter Laufer, who published two editions of their book, Neon Nevada, in 1994 and 2011. They drove through the state, documenting commercial and artisan signs. They donated 105 images to this project, although they will require permission for use.

Katherine Hepworth initiated the idea of creating a repository for neon in Nevada and drove the concept for the grant-funded Northern Nevada Neon project. Hepworth and her students took hundreds of photos of Reno signs, many of which are included in this collection.

The Humboldt Museum and Northeastern Nevada Museums provided about 60 Images and scans from photographs held in their collections.

Will Durham, the director of the Nevada Neon Project, provided thousands of images of signs in rural and urban areas in Nevada North of Tonopah. His photos make up the bulk of the collection.

Collections included in the Nevada-wide neon portal from Las Vegas include:

  • Images from the Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO), which spans the years 1914-2000. YESCO is responsible for many of the neon signs in and around Las Vegas, Nevada and Reno, Nevada, as well as other Western states.
  • Dreaming the Skyline Digital Collection, which draws exclusively from the architectural collections of UNLV Libraries Special Collections and includes many images of neon signs.
  • The Neon survey, which grew from a project from the UNLV Center for Gaming Research to document Las Vegas signs in the early 2000s into a partnership with the Neon Museum and UNLV Special Collections to photograph and describe signs in situ.