Local Arrangements & Tours

The WHA is excited to announce that there will be several interesting and unique tours at the 2019 conference! Make sure to register for the tours quickly as they will fill up! Click here to register!

The Nevada Test Site Tour

Wednesday, October 16, 2019 | 8 A.M. - 5 P.M. | $50

“We had long ago written off that terrain as wasteland and today it’s blooming with atoms,” said Governor Charles Russell of Nevada in 1952. He was referring to the atomic testing that began with above ground blasts at the Nevada Test Site in 1951 on land where the Western Shoshone and other Indigenous people once lived. There would be 100 such tests before underground testing began in 1963 and continued until 1992. Today, renamed the "Nevada National Security Site," the Nevada Test Site is a major research facility with a history of about 1,000 nuclear tests, scientific experiments, rumors of alien craft, and numerous protests.

On this tour you will go behind-the-scenes with a day trip to the site. The tour includes travel from Las Vegas through the Mojave Desert landscape to the Test Site gates and the closed testing town of Mercury. After a tour of Mercury, where scientists, engineers, and thousands of workers lived during atmospheric testing in the 1950s, the group will make stops at significant historic sites of Frenchman Flat, the Sedan Crater, the Ice Cap, and Doom Town. Tour guides are Leisl Carr Childers, Ph.D. (Colorado State University), author of The Size of the Risk: Histories of Multiple Use in the Great Basin, Christian Harrison, Ph.D. (Clark County School District), scholar on Nevada water use and environmental history, and Anthony Graham (Ph.D. Candidate, UNLV), environmental historian and intern for the Nevada Site Specific Research Board. Because this is an operational U.S. Department of Energy national security site, attendees must pass a background check to take this tour when they reserve a tour ticket. Contact the WHA Office for a form. Lunch is provided. Please note: cameras and cell phones are not permitted.

 Photo Courtesy of Anthony Graham 

Red Rock Hike and Tour

Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 1 P.M. - 4:30 P.M. | $25

The Red Rock National Conservation Area divides the west side of the city of Las Vegas. The cliffs of Red Rock draw more than two million climbers and tourists from around the world each year and were recently featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary, Free Solo. The cliffs resulted from the movement of the Keystone Trust Fault line linking the towering grey limestone Spring Mountains with the tail end of the sandstone of the Colorado Plateau. In 1990, special legislation supported by the Nevada congressional delegation, changed the status of the Red Rock Recreation Lands to a National Conservation Area, the seventh to be designated nationally. This legislation provides the funding to protect and improve the area. This tour, led by Andy Kirk (Professor and Chair of the UNLV Department of History) will explore the National Scenic By-Way and 14-mile scenic loop offering opportunities to stop by features like Ice Box Canyon, petroglyph sites, and take a moderate hike toward Calico Tanks. Take a break from the Strip and enjoy one of the most spectacular red road landscapes of the American southwest. (Photo courtesy of Andy Kirk)

East Side, West Side: Ethnic Las Vegas

Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 1 P.M. - 4:30 P.M. | $30

Photo Courtesy of Leisl Carr ChildersBefore there was a downtown Las Vegas, there was a townsite west of the railroad tracks. This district eventually became the segregated area called "West Las Vegas" or the "Historic Westside". The Civil Rights Movement changed West Las Vegas to some degree, but other factors would change southern Nevada as well. The expansion of the gaming industry and international developments inspired large-scale migrations from Asia and especially Latin America, creating ethnic neighborhoods both just west of the Strip and in the eastern part of the valley. This tour delves into the ethnic and racial diversity of Las Vegas and will be led by Michael Green, associate professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. As the co-author of Las Vegas: A Centennial History and author of Nevada: A History of the Silver State, Green is (nearly) a lifelong resident who grew up to experience these diverse districts that make Las Vegas so unique.

Fabulous Las Vegas LGBTQ History Bus Tour

Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 7 P.M. - 10 P.M. | $30

Photo Courtesy of Brian Paco Alvarez

Please join the QuIT Caucus for its inaugural event in Fabulous Las Vegas! QuIT is an ad hoc organizing group for a proposed caucus of the Coalition for Western Women's History (CWWH) committed to making two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people and pasts a visible and vital force in the field of North American western history.

This unique LGBTQ bus tour will make stops across the city, shining a rainbow spotlight on the multiracial, multiethnic, and Indigenous history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, and queer Nevadans. We’ll end our time together at an historic bar, but you may want your night to begin there! Bring your favorite LGBTQ people and treasured allies along for this “Nitty Gritty History of the City” lead by Brian Paco Alvarez’s Fabulous Story Tours. As your guide, Alvarez, who is a Las Vegas native and graduate student at UNLV, will give attendees an insider’s excursion through queer Las Vegas. This tour is not to be missed. Be there or be square!

Scholarships are available for this tour for those who wish to attend but cannot afford it. For details, please contact the WHA Office before registering.

A Tale of Two Cities: The Las Vegas Strip and Downtown

Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 1 P.M. - 4:30 P.M. | $30

The bright lights of Las Vegas can be seen from outer space. On this tour you will go behind those lights to examine the history of the Las Vegas Strip, then actually go to Las Vegas (your guides can explain that one). You will visit downtown, begun as a railroad stop in 1905, and delve into the history of Las Vegas and its surrounding areas. You’ll hear about who those histories have influenced one another, the West, the nation, and the world, and how outside forces shaped them, shifting from the federal government, to organized crime, to international events. The tour ranges from a U.S. senator from Tennessee to an eccentric billionaire, from a murderous mobster to bankers from Utah. Your guides are intimately familiar with Las Vegas and its environs. Former Governor (1983-89) and U.S. Senator (1989-2001) Richard Bryan’s family was from Las Vegas, and he moved there in 1942; he serves as chairman of the board of Preserve Nevada, the state’s oldest statewide historic preservation organization. Geoff Schumacher is a longtime resident, a former journalist, senior content director for the AAM-accredited Mob Museum, and author of Sun, Sin, & Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas.

The Best Little Town by a Dam Site, and the Dam Site: Boulder City and Hoover Dam

Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 12:30 P.M. - 5 P.M. | $40

Construction on “the eighth wonder of the world” began in 1931, and Hoover Dam’s completion in 1936 made possible a significant amount of the growth of Southern California and the American Southwest with cheap and plentiful water and hydroelectric power. It continues to generate water and power for California, Nevada, and Arizona, but it also became a major tourist attraction, thanks to its sheer magnitude and the creation of America’s first national recreation area, Lake Mead, right behind the 726.4-foot-high structure. The government also built the Boulder Canyon Federal Reservation to house those building the dam, and it became Boulder City, now not only a federal town but also a historic community and Las Vegas suburb known for its limited growth, lack of gambling (one of only two Nevada towns where it’s illegal), and small-town atmosphere. Michelle Follette Turk, Ph.D., author of A History of Occupational Health and Safety: 1905 to the present, and historic preservationist in Nevada, leads a tour that takes you through Boulder City and then Hoover Dam.

Local Arrangements Co-Chairs

William Bauer, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Susan Johnson, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Michael Green, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Andy Kirk, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

2019 Local Arrangements Committee

DeAnna Beachley, History and Women's Studies, College of Southern Nevada
Richard Bryan, former Senator of the United States and chairman, Preserve Nevada
Maria Raquel Casas, Department of History, UNLV
Shae Cox, Department of History, UNLV, and Deputy Director, Preserve Nevada
Su Kim Chung, Special Collections, UNLV
Kendra Gage, Interdisciplinary Studies, UNLV 
Michael Hall, National Atomic Testing Museum

Pete La Chapelle, History, Nevada State College
Mark Padoongpatt, Interdisciplinary Studies, UNLV
Harry Reid, former Senator of the United States and Distinguished Fellow, UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law
Geoff Schumacher, The Mob Museum
Robert Stoldal, Chair, Nevada State Board of Museums and History 
Claytee White, Oral History Research Center, UNLV

The WHA is hosted on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and benefits from the generous support of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Western History Association | University of Nebraska at Omaha | Department of History | 6001 Dodge Street | Omaha, NE 68182 | 

| (402) 554-5999 | westernhistoryassociation@gmail.com

The Western History Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.