skip to content | Accessibility Information

Light Research @ MMU

Lightopia at Vitra Design Museum

If you are anywhere near this exhibition, at Weil am Rhein, Germany, and open until 16 March 2014, a visit seems essential. Taking a broad approach to light, art and design, the curators explain that the show aims to epxlore cutting edge art works and iconic designs while also enquiring about the future of light and sustainability, and the potential for further innovation.

Lightopia (2)

October 30th, 2013 - 17:46pm

Las Vegas, The Neon Museum and Fremont Street

Roland Baskeyfield, light designer, discuses his recent trip to the Las Vegas Neon Museum:

The heart of Las Vegas with its omnipresent neon is a truly remarkable sight.  By night, Las Vegas Boulevard glows in a multitude of colours, moving from hotel to casino as if with a rhythm and beat all of its own.  With such an enchanting visual feast, always wanting to see the next spectacle, the four or so miles of walking the ‘Las Vegas Strip’ was effortless. On waking next morning, the only strip visible from the hotel room was the landing strip of Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, but there was still one very important appointment before leaving town: The Neon Museum of Las Vegas –

Vegas - Vintage ‘S’, tungsten, incandescent and neon outline

Driving through the streets, we soon knew we were in the right neighbourhood, when first greeted by the giant column-mounted silver slipper decorated with many light bulbs and then the unmistakable sight of La Concha – the shell.  Amazingly, the visitors’ centre of the museum is the lobby from the former La Concha Motel, originally built in the 1960s.  When the motel closed, the lobby itself was saved from demolition and lovingly re-sited at The Neon Museum.Vegas - Boneyard Park at The Neon Museum

Having  joined Troy, our guide, we started our tour.  You might imagine visiting The Neon Museum in broad daylight, with the mid-morning desert sun beating down wouldn’t be the optimum time to visit, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  We wove our way round the ‘boneyard’ and museum’s vast collection of signs, largely from casinos, hotels and motels.  It was very special to share in the celebrated architectural history of this city; the sheer amount innovation and skill that had gone into the design and fabrication of each sign was so apparent.

Many of the signs comprised tungsten/incandescent lamp bulbs in conjunction with neon; however some were just composed with bulbs, others solely neon.   We learnt that standard bulbs were used, not heavy duty and that it could be practically a full time job to keep signs fully illuminated and not a job for those with an aversion to heights!  Looking at the signs, it was fascinating to learn about what had influenced design.  The sign from the former Stardust hotel for instance was inspired by the nuclear tests that were performed some decades ago at the Nevada National Security Site.

The Neon Museum not only preserves historical signs, but also has a programme of sign restoration across several city centre sites.  The first sign to be restored was the Hacienda Horse and Rider which is in the Fremont Street district.  Fremont Street is where the Las Vegas we know started back in the 1920s and contains a great collection of neon signs.  For more stories about ScandiNord’s travels please read our ‘Neon North America’ articles over the coming weeks at and please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments.Vegas - Hacienda Horse and Rider


May 23rd, 2013 - 12:49pm

Chris Burden’s Urban Light. Los Angeles

Outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is sited Chris Burden’s magical Urban Light, which is rapidly becoming a tourist attraction in the city. It demonstrates how the imaginative and artistic use of light can transform urban space. The installation comprises a dense, regular geometric grid arrangement of 202 restored street lamps from the 1920s and 1930s, of varying designs, most of them from Southern California.  On the night I was there, it attracted people like moths to a flame, constituting a new and convivial public space in which married couples posed, fashion shoots were held, kids played, tourists gathered, photographers snapped away and teenagers hung out. IMG_1398

April 22nd, 2013 - 12:15pm

Light and darkness in the industrial city

Post by John Beckerson, senior curator, Manchester Museum of Science and Industry

Finding out about about MMU’s research on light has helped me to shape some ideas which I had been developing at MOSI for a future exhibition and fired up my enthusiasm to work with MMU researchers.  We hope to get a proposal off the ground about an exhibition, Light and Darkness in the Industrial City, using the Museum’s collections in new and exciting ways. By looking at the history and technology of lighting within a rich social, geographical and cultural context, we hope to literally shed new light on the Museum’s wonderful collection of historic electrical appliances as well as work with guest contributors to bring lively artistic responses that will delight and inspire our visitors. With themes such as ‘the Light of Home’ to explore the enduring link between domestic lighting and cosiness, and ‘The Dark City’ to look at the darker and often ignored side of Manchester’s night life, and ‘Contested Light’ to explore everything from over-the-top Christmas lights to flashing bunny ears in nightclubs, we have lots of ideas and are open to collaborations. To find out more, email if you would like to get involved in the discussions.

March 16th, 2013 - 12:22pm

Warsaw Neon Museum

Neon is commonly associated with the excesses of commodity capitalism, an example of lighting technology that framed the modernist landscape of the 20th century western city by night. Certainly the flickering glory of neon defined places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Less well recognised is the position of neon within the landscape of cities located the other side of the Iron Curtain. So the next time you are in Warsaw, perhaps it would be good to find some time to visit the Warsaw Neon Museum.

March 15th, 2013 - 20:07pm