The WMA Spark Ignites the Las Vegas Cultural Community

By Dawn Barraclough

Hosting the Western Museums Association (WMA) 2014 Annual Meeting was a great catalyst for the Las Vegas cultural community, bringing us together and into the future as a united force. It all began in 2012 when, with local museum consultant Art Wolf at the helm, Las Vegas museum directors met to prepare a bid to host the 2014 WMA Annual Meeting. This campaign included a strategy on a few fronts to highlight all 27 of the diverse and unique cultural institutions and nature parks that have sprung up in Las Vegas and surrounding Southern Nevada since hosting the WMA Annual Meeting in the early 1990's.

Hosting the WMA 2014 Annual Meeting was an honor for us that we took very seriously, and preparing for the conference gave us a chance to work together toward a common goal. We created brochures and a video highlighting the 27 institutions that made up our host committee. We then began partnering as a group with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) and the Nevada Commission on Tourism. The LVCVA and local CBS broadcast affiliate KLAS-TV sponsored an extended print run of our brochures and we began to formalize ourselves. What started as a group of 35 cultural professionals from throughout Southern Nevada who came together to host the WMA Annual Meeting, and officially became the Las Vegas Museum Alliance (LVMA) in the fall of 2013 with the creation of a portal-style website for the group: We staffed Las Vegas booths in and sponsored luncheons at WMA 2012–2014 Annual Meetings as the LVMA. We met every few months in 2013 and monthly for most of 2014 to fulfill our host city duties for WMA—coordinating evening events, tours, special activities, and meeting volunteer needs.



As the LVMA we continue to meet and collaborate on multiple projects annually. We have advocated on behalf of museums at the biennial Museum Advocacy Day at the Nevada Legislature. During 2014 we partnered again with broadcast media KLAS-TV on a "GR8 Museums" promotional campaign, highlighting a different museum every month throughout the year on nightly news broadcasts and on social media. Our partnership with the LVCVA initiated "Las Vegas Museum Month" which started in October 2014, and we will be continuing each October into the future. We are also very involved in the Nevada Museums Association as the Southern Nevada contingent.

In addition to collaborating on promotional partnerships and advocacy, the LVMA provides its members the opportunity to come together to share expertise, experience and best practices. The diverse members offer a melding pot of perspectives with different areas of expertise, many years of experience or perhaps a new perspective to assist each other in the highly competitive Las Vegas market. We are an evolving cultural community with two members currently relocating to larger spaces and they have the LVMA to help with their transitions. The increased communication among LVMA members has also resulted in smaller projects among members. This summer, three LVMA institutions presented traveling dinosaur exhibits and joined in a collaborative, special ticket discount at all three museums in the Dinosaurs Roam Vegas promotion. We pooled our promotional resources for a secondary campaign and each conducted our own primary campaign resulting in increased visitation and membership sales for the most successful summer ever for each of the museums. Future collaborative projects, such as concurrent exhibits in multiple museums exploring the various facets of the hospitality industry, are in the early phases of discussion with community partners already on board.     

The LVMA is a self-help cultural group comprised of Directors, Curators, Administrators, Tourism Professionals, Marketing and Public Relations folks. Our mission is to enrich the cultural life in and beyond Las Vegas by facilitating collaboration among local museums and with the community; to enable Las Vegas museums to achieve their full individual and collective potential; and to preserve, enhance and make accessible the history and cultural assets of Las Vegas for present and future generations. It is our hope that together we can change the perceptions of the public, other museum professionals in the Western museum community and beyond that Las Vegas has a cultural story. What we discovered when we began meeting back in 2012 as the Host Committee was that we liked working together. The people who make up the LVMA are as eclectic and unique as the cultural institutions themselves. We are feisty and determined to find our place in this community. Las Vegas is a young city of 2 million people, primarily from other places. Here culture and history have taken a back seat to the new and flashy, the latest and the greatest. As we enter the adolescent phase of Las Vegas locals want to know how this city in the desert came to be and even the tourists are getting a little curious. Our Host Committee has evolved into the LVMA and will carry on into the future as we collaborate to spread the word about culture and explore the many chapters in the Las Vegas story.

Dawn Barraclough joined the Springs Preserve in May 2006 as a Public Relations representative and spokesperson. Her role as a communicator has been key in the establishment of the Preserve, as a significant resource to the Las Vegas community in the areas of history, culture, education and entertainment for all ages. She is a founding member of the Las Vegas Museum Alliance (LVMA) and a board member of the Nevada Museums Association (NMA.)

Dawn received her undergraduate degree in English from San Francisco State University and a Certificate in Public Relations from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Prior to arriving in Las Vegas, Ms. Barraclough amassed extensive experience on an international level in video production, conference creation, and event management with Fortune 500 companies including Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Oracle, Intel, Johnson Controls, Coldwell Banker, General Motors, Macy’s and many others.




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