Neon: Darkness Electified

Neon: Darkness Electrified is my collection of about 30 neon signs that would have been seen on Main Streets across the midwest and beyond during the neon era of the 1920's through the 1960's. I always gravitate towards these signs because of the stories they tell and the memories they evoke. When Nick Hoffman, Chief Curator of the History Museum at the Castle in Appleton, Wisconsin approached me about putting together the exhibit, I agreed and dove in head first. 

The Neon Exhibit Illuminates Main Street Commercial & Cultural History 

The collection spans five decades and showcases the commercial and popular cultural history of Wisconsin's Fox Valley, the Mid-west, and even Route 66. The exhibit first opened November 12, 2014 and remained at the History Museum at the Castle until Fall 2015. The exhibit is currently available for display in other museums. Neon: Darkness Electrified features the best examples from my collection. Signs include restaurants, beer brands, automobile dealerships, and fraternal lodges.

Exhibit Details

  • 2,500 square feet (adjustable to space needs)
  • Hands-on features include a plasma ball, rope light tube bending, and docent-led activities.
  • Digital video footage of signmaking and interview with neon artisan, Jed Schleisner. Borrower must provide video equipment.
  • Comes with over 25 signs of varying sizes from small window signs to 12ft x 12ft roadside signs.
  • Lessons for K-12 students available upon request.
  • Borrowers are responsible for providing platforms and infrastructure to display the signs. Installation advising provided by the Glotube Neon.
  • Sign identifcation labels included with the exhibit.
  • Borrowers are responsible for printing the main narrative panels (6) and vinyl introduction. Script avialable on request in a Word document. Can be changed to your community’s neon sign history. 

Photo Gallery

Below are photos of the exhibit as it was displayed at The Museum at the Castle in Appleton, WI. All the signs pictured below are available to future exhibitors. 

Neon: Darkness Electrified in the News

The museum exhibit was featured in several print, video and television news outlets. Below are two stories featuring Jed and Neon: Darkness Electrified from northeast Wisconsin's local Fox affiliate, WLUK. 

Neon: Darkness Electrified on Wisconsin Public Television

As promotion for the exhibit, the museum's curator reached out to Wisconsin public Television who created this piece for their show, "Wisconsin Life."