While many of the Las Vegas Valley’s most iconic properties have closed or been imploded, memories of them live on through souvenirs and keepsakes.
The Clark County Museum’s newest exhibit, “Bringing It Home: Souvenirs of the Strip: 1960-1980,” will feature 1,400 such items starting March 31.
“Our exhibit starts from when the El Rancho Vegas was destroyed (by fire in 1960) and ends at the MGM (Grand) fire (in 1980),” museum curator Malcolm Vuksich said.
The museum, 1830 S. Boulder Highway, will feature custom matchbooks and ashtrays, poker chips and slot coins, menus from various casinos, playing cards, bar glasses and more.
“This is the most artifact-heavy exhibit we’ve had,” said Mark Hall-Patton, administrator of the Clark County Museum system. “Most of the items are small, which is why we can display so many.”
Hall-Patton said that, during that era, it was expected that casinos would customize items so people could take them home as souvenirs.
As a result, the museum has collected or been gifted thousands of items from hotel properties dating back to El Rancho, which opened in 1941.
Some items in the collection, such as the bar glasses, weren’t necessarily designed to be taken home, yet patrons still made off with them.
“I think it was a wink-wink, nudge-nudge agreement,” Hall-Patton said. “Hotels weren’t necessarily happy (people took certain items home).”
But no matter the souvenir, or the way people came in possession with them, logos were plastered all over, giving casinos and hotels a little advertisement.
“If you see your friend has something from Castaways, you might think, ‘Maybe I’ll stay there when I go to Vegas,’” Hall-Patton said.
Vuksich said the exhibit also features some of the more obscure keepsakes such as room keys, do-not-disturb signs and Keno papers.
There is even a coffee table made solely of dice from the Desert Inn. Vuksich said it was donated by the family a former casino worker who made the table — it’s unclear how he got the dice or how long it took him to make the table.
He added that his favorite item is the collection of swizzle sticks, many of which feature intricate designs. Ones from the Dunes came in six colors and had different carvings, such as a sultan, at the top of the stick.
Hall-Patton said today’s casinos don’t focus on those items as much as they used to.
The exhibit is set to run through Aug. 20. For more information, call 702-455-7955.