In a town that already exudes sexuality, it would seem fitting to have an Erotic Heritage Museum…right? Well, actually, this museum is a breath of fresh air when it comes to sexuality in Vegas. In a town where sexuality seems to be defined by the hand-out pamphlets and strip clubs, the museum brings a new edge to Las Vegas.
Located on the road behind the Las Vegas Strip (that is well-known for its large array of strip clubs), Harry Mohney’s Erotic Heritage Museum has been standing tall since its grand opening on August 2, 2008. Formerly the Déjà Vu Love Boutique, the 24,000 square-foot space has been transformed into truly a first class museum by the non-profit group the Exodus Trust. The museum holds over 300,000 different pieces of art, memorabilia items, books, and more…all related to…well, sex! But, here sex is not seen as distasteful or raunchy. It is seen as a dominant part of our culture, having strong cultural significance to our everyday lives.
The museum is, indeed, portrayed in a “sexy” way but it is seen as artistic and educational for all who enter. The Erotic Heritage Museum educates patrons about the erotic arts and the impact that sexuality has had on our culture, as well as other cultures from around the world. In fact, since its opening, UNLV art professors have even brought their classes for field trips. The museum offers not only a large history lesson on the world of sexuality, but also classes in art, photography, and graphic design.
There are tons of unique exhibits to explore within the museum. There are unique replicas of original peep show booths from the 15th century and, even, an “erotic” painting by Walt Disney (who would have thought?!). There is also an entire space devoted to the history of legislation both for and against expressions of sexuality in society. The high-end artwork, displays of fetish equipment, expressions of gay art, historical artifacts, and plaster casts of “well-known” adult performers leave possible guests intrigued, “nervous,” and wanting to come into the museum.
Artistic Director and Associate Curator, Dr. Laura Henkel, sees no reason for people to be “nervous.” Her motto is that it is just sex! 41 year old Henkel grew up in a small Texas town. After working as a legal secretary for over 18 years, she decided that she was ready and disciplined enough to go to college. At school in Berkeley, CA, Henkel studied liberal arts and psychology. With her degree, she then decided that she wanted to become a fertility counselor for couples. At the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, Henkel gained her doctorate in sexuality. Her class on Erotology, the scientific study of the graphic depiction of sex and love, was what truly sparked her interest for this field. She got her Ph.D in erotic art and traveled all over the world to learn about sexuality in other cultures. Her passion for learning and her love of erotic art led her to the museum, here in Las Vegas. She loves working for the museum because it combines her passions with the support of the arts and the community of Las Vegas.
Despite the controversy behind the museum, there have been no protestors to date! Protests are common among these sorts of museums in other cities, but the Heritage Museum here, in Las Vegas, has had a strong following. Perhaps it is because sexuality is strongly accepted in Sin City? Perhaps it is because people see this museum as a friendly reminder of the freedom of speech and expression that our fore-fathers granted us? Or, maybe it is because it opens up people’s eyes to new things that are typically NOT accepted elsewhere? Whatever it may be, the Erotic Heritage Museum brings a new element to Las Vegas and is anything but your “typical” art museum.