Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2014

Currently: 92° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Henderson museum plans taking shape

Backer envisions space and technology showplace, citing support of mayor, council, broader community

Image

Sun File Photos

Top Left: Liberace-themed bags designed for younger audiences are for sale at the Liberace Museum in 2006. Top right: A collection of decomissioned neon signs from the Horseshoe is on display at the Neon Boneyard. Bottom left: Dave Hickey leads a tour in front of the painting “Step(In) Out” by Tim Bavington in the Las Vegas Art Museum in 2007. Bottom right: A Columbian mammoth skeleton commands space in the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society in Lorenzi Park in 2007.

Henderson wants a museum and the city is in the middle of a nearly $200,000 study to determine its content, location and funding.

City officials say they want a nationally recognized institution that will cater mostly to residents. Henderson owns a lot of land, including a parcel on the east side of U.S. 95 that the city purchased in hope of developing a spring training site for major league baseball. City Councilman Jack Clark says $25 million from previous land sales will be used as seed money.

The idea isn’t new. Clark began pursuing a space and technology museum 14 years ago and has toured family-friendly science museums across the country. He has received support from Mayor Jim Gibson and other council members and says he’s confident the report is going reflect exactly what he’s been hearing from community members over the past decade: Give the community an educational, fun and nationally recognized museum.

Museums aren’t known moneymakers and cultural tourism isn’t a big draw here, but Mark Hall-Patton, director of the Aviation Museum and interim director of the Clark County Museum, says a successful and educational museum could help Henderson, with its diverse neighborhoods, establish its identity: “Henderson needs something for the city as a whole, to have a focal point for the entire community to get around. It can give the community a sense of ‘this is us,’ which is something the communities here strive for because everyone is from somewhere else. The payback comes in quality of life and the way in which the community views itself.”

Henderson has the opportunity to do a lot, he says, “but it’s got to be the right thing.”

National museum consulting company AMS Planning and Research Corp. is in town interviewing civic leaders, museum heads, members of the business community and gaming and industry reps. It will hold focus groups and present its findings to the city in September or October.

Andrea Primo, director of cultural arts and tourism, says the lack of a museum creates a huge void and that nothing will be determined until the study is complete.

“People have been requesting this,” Primo says. “We’re asking, ‘Now that you said you’d support a museum, what kind of museum would you support?’ ”

A 2007 cultural arts survey showed the majority of Henderson residents are interested in a museum, particularly a natural history museum (51.8 percent) or a science and technology museum (41 percent).

Hall-Patton says the city could create a museum about the effect World War II had on Henderson, or a military museum.

Libby Lumpkin, executive director of the Las Vegas Art Museum, says a science museum is a great idea. Others have suggested an archaeological museum or a geological museum that looks at the prehistory of the area.

“We have quite a few different cultural offerings in our community, but we’re looking for a nationally recognized institution,” says Rob Brisendine, manager of operations for cultural arts and tourism. “It’s been a long time in the making. The discussion began five years ago with assessing the needs.”

The museum, which could be part of a large campus, may even incorporate the valley’s existing museums, including the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, which focuses heavily on science and technology. That museum is in Las Vegas’ Cultural Corridor. Linda Quinn, executive director of Lied, has spoken with AMS representatives and says the museum is in a strategic planning phase to move to a different downtown Las Vegas location, but that the Lied is interested in continuing conversations with Henderson regarding a possible satellite museum.

Informal Learning Experiences, a Washington, D.C., consulting and traveling exhibitions company, is also involved. RAFI, the local architectural and urban design company, is helping with site selection and planning. Robert Bailey, an AMS principal, says he has an agreement with the city to not comment on the research process.

Others question whether the valley needs another underfunded, underattended museum that will be competing for dollars that are already spread pretty thin. It’s a reasonable concern, given the budgets and collections at some local attractions.

“There are a lot of new institutions coming onboard in the next year or two,” says Dave Millman, director of the State Museum and Historical Society. “When you add all of that up, it’s a lot of competition for whatever resources there are in the community.”

The area already has the State Museum and Historical Society, the Clark County Museum, the Aviation Museum and the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. There is the Neon Boneyard, Lied Children’s Discovery Museum, the Railroad Museum, the Liberace Museum, the Atomic Testing Museum, the Las Vegas Art Museum and eventually, the Mob Museum.

AMS’ cultural facility studies look at the current market, competition, possible sites, community needs, business planning and project financing.

“We’re looking at the whole range of content, delivery, governance, business plans,” says Arthur Wolf, founder of Wolf Consulting. Wolf is working with AMS. “It could be an outpost of a well-established museum elsewhere or it could be a local museum that might want a new home. It’s not meant to compete with the Strip or Las Vegas.”

Clark said it could be at least a decade before the complex is completed.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy