Visiting Ignite Sign Museum in Tucson
Whenever I travel to a new city I usually have a few spots that are must sees and I’ll prioritize visiting them, but I’ll also deliberately leave some of my time free. As much as I’d like to say it’s my time to rest and relax it’s really not. I don’t do relaxing vacations. Instead, I use that time to visit spots that I’ve discovered on the fly. Maybe I grabbed a brochure at the visitor’s center or perused the local guide in my hotel room or simply saw a billboard but I’ll always find something new to check out. When I went to Tucson I, of course, had to visit Saguaro National Park but as I wandered around town I discovered it was also home to a pretty unique place called the Ignite Sign Museum and I decided to check it out.
I love a good sign. I’m a pretty observant driver (some might say distracted) and am constantly noticing unique signs that make me pull over and grab my camera. Signs are true art forms and very much deserve to be celebrated. In SoCal, we have the fantastic Museum of Neon Art and Vegas has the wonderful Neon Museum but I didn’t realize Arizona is also home to a museum dedicated to the preservation of signage.
That may be because Ignite Sign Museum is fairly new. Founded in 2018 it was formed from the collection of Jude Cook, who is basically sign royalty having owned Cook & Company Signmakers for over 40 years. He’s also restored several of Tucson’s historic neon signs, many of which are found in the museum.
And what a museum! At over 7000 feet it’s a wonderland of signs in any shape and form. When I first arrived I was in total awe as I saw sign upon sign upon sign. Funny enough, I was only seeing a portion of the museum and as I wandered through its exhibits I just became more incredulous at what I was seeing.
There were giant signs and tiny signs. There were bar signs and shop signs. There were street signs and advertising signs. “Signs, signs, everywhere signs” just like the song says.
Inside, all the signs are beautifully restored but you can also visit the storage yard where there’s a bevy of ones waiting their turn, and when I visited a couple of volunteers were busy working on a future display.
Speaking of volunteers, if you visit on the weekend you maybe lucky enough to catch one giving a neon demonstration. Luckily, that’s just when I happened to be there and I was able to watch one. It was super fascinating to see the artist bend the glass into a discernible shape and even more exciting when I was given it as a souvenir. I absolutely love it and it sits on my desk to this day.
Ignite Sign Museum was a total surprise and an absolutely delightful one. I had big smile on my face the entire time I wandered its exhibits and was so happy seeing all the beautifully restored signs. It was definitely worth making some time for and is a prime example of the wonderful surprises you can find when you just stop and explore a little.