Las Vegas City Life on the Neon Museum Controversy

She's Electric
Dahl-Beck neon sign, San Francisco

Las Vegas City Life Las Vegas City Life, a newspaper in Las Vegas, interviewed me last week regarding my difficulty in obtaining permission to photograph the Neon Museum’s neon boneyard, a collection of old and historic neon signs in Las Vegas.

I attempted to shoot the signs on a recent visit to Las Vegas and my request to shoot was denied and I was told that the museum did not want images of their signs on photo sharing sites like Flickr and Zooomr due to potentially “unscrupulous” use.

I originally posted on this here and Cory also published the story over at Boing Boing here.

My own opinion is that by attempting to restrict photography and photo sharing of their collection that the non profit museum is in direct conflict with their stated mission to:

“collect, preserve, study and exhibit neon signs and associated artifacts to inspire educational and cultural enrichment for diverse members of our international community.”

Photography and photo sharing represent perhaps the single best vehicle to in fact share their neon signs with the “international community.” It is difficult to see how making someone fly from India or China to Las Vegas to see the signs in person vs. allowing them the ability to view them on Flickr or Zooomr supports their claimed mission statement.

Las Vegas City Life’s coverage of the issues surrounding this museum is fair and balanced. In addition to interviewing me they also interviewed Nancy Deaner, the Museum Board Chair.

I found it ironic that Deaner brought up the subject of copyright as a potential reason for restricting photography of the signs. This objection was never brought up to me in my initial rejection. I find it difficult to see how when these signs were originally designed to be on public display, with the full knowledge that anyone could take a public photo of them, how now, after the fact, the museum feels it their job to somehow enforce copyright issues.

The museum’s stance towards photographers is both backwards to cultural enrichment and antithetical to their stated mission.

As a non-profit the museum enjoys favorable tax exempt status. This fact makes their collection something that ought to be of public interest and for the public benefit. By restricting their collection they work against cultural enrichment of an international community. I would hope that the Board of Directors of this museum would reconsider this position.

I have long been a fan of neon art and have a set of neon images up on Flickr here.