X-Files fans and conspiracy theorists dream of
visiting Area 51, the test site for America's advanced aircraft and
weapons systems - and, some say, the place where UFOs are hidden.
Now the curious can visit, sort of. In Los Angeles, an exhibit by
the Center for Land Use Interpretation offers an inside look at the
5,000 square-mile Nellis Air Force Bombing and Gunnery Range in
Nevada, the largest and most secret restricted area in the United
States, which contains Area 51. The range holds other pieces of
Western history as well, from Native American campsites to old
mining towns. Housed in an office trailer in Culver City, Calif.,
the exhibit, The Nellis Range Complex: Landscape of Conjecture,
features mounted photographs offering aerial views and panoramas,
as well as satellite images, maps and every book the center could
find on the subject. Matt Coolidge, co-director of the 5-year-old
nonprofit center, says its mission is to make people more aware of
their physical environment: "More curious, more confused, but more
engaged in finding answers." Coolidge doesn't like to give away
secrets by getting too specific, but tours sometimes employ actors
or other "plants' to get their guests to challenge the authority of
the tour interpreters. "The tour bus becomes a kind of a lab for
tourism," he says.
The exhibit runs until Nov. 14
at the Center for Land Use Interpretation, 9331 Venice Blvd.,
Culver City, CA 90232 (310/839-5722).