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What Makes A Museum Successful?

(Left) Nevada State Museum/Folies Bergere costume, (Middle) Checko Selgado Wendy Kveck, "Sister", 2014, Oil, acrylic, paint one on canvas over panel, (Right) Las Vegas Natural History Museum, International Wildlife Gallery
Illustration/Natalie Cullen

(Left) Nevada State Museum/Folies Bergere costume, (Middle) Checko Selgado Wendy Kveck, "Sister", 2014, Oil, acrylic, paint one on canvas over panel, (Right) Las Vegas Natural History Museum, International Wildlife Gallery

With the entertainment options in Las Vegas, sometimes overlooked are the museums that reside here.

Fine art, natural history, state history, entertainment history, special-interest museums – these are all over the city – although sometimes a bit off-the-beaten-path.

Those in-charge at museums are always looking for ways to get people through their doors. But in Las Vegas, that job is especially tasking. Imagine being a museum in a city where most people come to party, drink and do almost anything other than viewing art or seeing displays that challenge their way of thinking.

Aurore Giguet is the  program director at the Marjorie Barrick Museum at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. 

She said the challenge isn't getting tourists to stop by but locals.

“Historically for locals there hasn’t been a museum-going cultural," she said, "That’s changing however I think because of all of the new projects coming online with museums and a lot of the expansions that are being talked about. There is a growing cultural of museum going”

Marilyn Gillespie, the director of the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, agreed that connecting with the community is vital to success.

“One of the reasons we have been able to thrive is because we have focused on our community," she said, "That we get tourists is a plus.”

Dennis McBride runs the Nevada State Museum, which is a little different than other museums.

The state museum is constitutionally mandated to document and preserve the history of Nevada and the city of Las Vegas. He said bringing in locals can be difficult but not as difficult as it once was.

“It is tough," he said, "But having been born and raised here when we had no museums at all to see that we have so many museums that have come on line in the last decade is amazing”

Giguet agreed that more offerings and stronger sense of community have lead to increased attendance. Both McBride and Gillespie told KNPR's State of Nevada they say a big jump in attendance last year.

"I think that the population of Las Vegas not only in numbers, but in attitude reached a critical point finally," McBride said, "Two million people here are going to expect something more than what we had in the 60s and 70s.”

As for getting even a portion of the 42 million people who visited Southern Nevada last year, Giguet believes it is something everyone should be involved with.

“I think collectively it’s a responsibility to make the museum-going experience part of the Vegas experience in general,” she said.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority started Museum Month a few years ago, which aims to direct more tourists to our city's museums.

The directors agreed it is a step in the right direction, but a lot more could be done to make museum going another part of a tourist's visit, like it is in New York City and San Francisco, for example.



The Mob Museum

300 Stewart Ave.

The Neon Museum

770 N. Las Vegas Blvd.

Discovery Children's Museum

360 Promenade Place

Atomic Testing Museum

755 E. Flamingo Road

Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort

500 E. Washington Ave.

Las Vegas Springs Preserve

333 S. Valley View

The Lost City Museum

721 S. Moapa Valley Blvd., Overton, Nevada

Nevada State Railroad Museum

601 Yucca Street, Boulder City

Clark County Museum

1830 S. Boulder Highway



Aurore Giguet, program director at the Marjorie Barrick Museum, University of Nevada/Las Vegas;  Marilyn Gillespie, director of the Las Vegas Natural History Museum;  Dennis McBride, director of the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas





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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.