For those hoping to get one last look at Las Vegas’ troubled Erotic Heritage Museum, it’s too late. The museum, which has been dealing with staffing issues, disputes with the property owner and intermittent closures over the last few months, shut its doors Wednesday after being served with an eviction notice.
Ted McIlvenna, president of the San Francisco-based Institute for Advanced Study of Sexuality, who opened the museum at 3275 Industrial Road in 2008 with property donated by Harry Mohney, owner of the Déjà Vu strip club empire, said he and a group of volunteers and museum employees were boxing up everything they could for transport back to San Francisco Thursday morning. About 6,000 pieces will eventually be put into storage. McIlvenna anticipates at least two more trips, and says he has until March 17.
But while McIlvenna was upset about the unceremonious way the museum had to close—in addition to the eviction notice, McIlvenna was sued over unpaid rent, despite his insistence that his oral agreement with Mohney never specified rent—he’s hopeful parts of the museum can continue to exist in Las Vegas.
“What we’re trying to do now is leave the library in Las Vegas,” he says. “We’re hopeful we’ll be able to put something together with UNLV.”
That library is massive, containing 5,000 books and thousands of magazines, technical journals, artifacts, films and pieces of reproduced and original art. (McIlvenna hopes to eventually digitize all the films to ensure they won’t be damaged by the Vegas heat.)
Amanda Morgan, a UNLV professor who has worked extensively with the museum, says the library needs to stay in Las Vegas, if only to continue the museum’s mission of educating the community about sex. “I’m upset, but I’m hopeful there will continue to be a future of sexuality and research and archives in Las Vegas, and possibly housed in a different location in a different way.”
McIlvenna says he’s been touched by the number of people who have already come by the museum to say goodbye. “We’ve had a steady stream of people come by all day, and we’ve given them all an erotic art piece,” he says. “We may not have been treated with dignity, but we’re going to leave with dignity.”