Las Vegas Sun

July 25, 2014

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HOW WE DID IT:

Project required collaboration, old-fashioned digging

The Las Vegas Sun has unveiled a rich multimedia chronicle of the city’s history, from its humble birth as a railroad stop to its present-day status as the entertainment capital of the world.

The project, “History of Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada,” began as an idea to show a historical interactive timeline of the Strip casinos.

“We started this project with a relatively small game plan and a quick timetable in mind,” said Andy Samuelson, the Sun’s new media special projects editor. “But the more research we did, the more we realized that in order to do a history project on Las Vegas the right way, you’ve got to include a lot of material.”

During the past few months, the project grew to include such multimedia elements as an 11-part documentary video, several other feature videos including some on casino implosions, slide shows and 360-degree panoramas. Along with stories written just for the project, the history site includes archived stories and photos from the Sun’s newspaper library and other sources.

“Even though Las Vegas is a relatively young city (103 years old), some of America’s most significant events took place here,” Samuelson said. “On top of all that, the town is constantly changing and reinventing itself — new celebrities and shows come and go.”

But in the city’s rush to grow, some history hasn’t been treated as reverently as it might be in other places.

“Even its most historic buildings aren’t safe, as they are imploded to make way for the next big Strip skyscrapers,” Samuelson said. “That’s not happening in New York or Washington, D.C. Vegas and its history are unique.”

The Sun’s online history project enlisted the help of two veteran Sun writers, Ed Koch and Mary Manning, in writing and research.

The Sun’s new media staff, including several interns from UNLV, also spent months gathering material from Sun archives and the UNLV special collections library, plus archived TV news video from the Las Vegas News Bureau and KLAS-TV.

The new media staff employed the latest online storytelling techniques to create a nonlinear multimedia experience that lets readers explore the city’s history through many paths.

The trek through time covers the days when Las Vegas was billed as the “Gateway to Hoover Dam,” its time as the best place to view atomic tests, and its rise as the top international destination for gambling and entertainment.

“We are excited to bring the history of Las Vegas to life through our Web site and its multimedia elements,” said Brian Greenspun, the Sun’s president and editor.

“Our staff has been dedicated to this project for months, and thanks to their efforts we have created an incredible story and valuable resource for our city.”

Here are some highlights:

Interactive historical casino map.

Interactive timeline of key events in every decade.

30-plus stories about key entertainers, mobsters and events.

An 11-part PBS-style documentary video.

About 1,000 historical photos.

A cross-referenced mob interactive graphic that shows connections among the mobsters and their links to other cities.

• Steerable, 360-degree panoramas of the Neon Boneyard, a holding area for old neon signs awaiting the building of a museum for them.

150 historical Sun archive stories.

Photos with audio clips of Las Vegas casino owners over the decades.