With the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III's ascension to the throne, interest in the British monarchy is stronger than ever. And for those who didn't get enough royals in their lives last month, "Princess Diana: A Tribute Exhibition" in the Shops at Crystals on the Las Vegas Strip is an essential stop.
A quarter century after her tragic death, Diana's story continues to resonate. More than 700 items, including the Princess of Wales' evening gowns and other garments, correspondence, gifts and personal items are displayed in a dozen rooms and additional hallways in the 10,000-square foot space. The VIP ticket includes minute-long audio summaries of more than 40 stations on the tour.
A paper re-creation of Princess Diana's wedding dress is among the highlights of an exhibition in the Shops at Crystals. Photo Credit: Princess Diana: A Tribute Exhibition
"It's the first time all of these artifacts are together in one space," said David Corelli, curator and producer, who worked on the project for five years. "And there's a number of new artifacts in the exhibit that have never been on display before."
Corelli says his goal was to create an exhibition that could compete with other glossy attractions in Las Vegas.
"First and foremost, I want them to have the best daytime experience they can on the Strip," Corelli said. "When you're putting programming into Las Vegas, you're not just creating something for royal fans or Diana fans. You're creating options for all the visitors that come in every week."
Her fans will enjoy the trove of artifacts related to the princess: a seating chart of her wedding breakfast, letters and messages on birthday and holiday cards, even a handwritten schedule of her hair appointments.
Other artwork tells Diana's life story and helps explain her lasting appeal. Using photos and video as references, Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave produced a paper re-creation of Diana's wedding gown.
Those who appreciate storytelling in a museum setting will appreciate the fine-tuned quality of the exhibition and aspects that review British history, fashions and trends of the several eras.
"Or if you really just simply want to know what it's like to be royalty and who was the royal family, I think we do a good job of also guiding you through that story and telling people about Diana, about Charles, but also about everybody who came before them and what the royal family is as an institution," Corelli said.
Queen Elizabeth, other royals featured
Rooms present biographical material about other prominent members of the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II; her father, King George VI; and her uncle, King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee.
Corelli is perhaps most proud that guests can see eight dresses that Diana wore, the largest such collection to be displayed in North America. "There's really not that many in general circulation," Corelli said, noting the dresses were auctioned for charity before her death.
Another rare find is a custom wrought-iron bench with the initials D & C surrounded by hearts, a gift for the couple from their Highgrove House neighbors in Gloucestershire. It was in their garden for more than decade before their divorce and is said to be the only wedding gift now owned outside of the family.
A stunning display of hand-stitched miniature versions of her most famous dresses also stands out.
"I knew people would be interested in the mini-dress room, but it actually ended up being one of the people's favorite parts of the exhibit so far," Corelli said. "People can spend all day in there just taking in all 79 of the dresses -- the fabric, the different patterns, where she wore it. They remember where she was and where they were when they saw her wearing that."
A portrait of Princess Diana invites guests to consider her life and legacy in the last room of “Princess Diana: A Tribute Exhibition.” Photo Credit: Paul Szydelko
Corelli said about 1,500 items in the collection were pared down to 700 for the display, which has no end date. With the queen's death, the exhibition could be tweaked.
"Now we're looking at bolstering that section given that there will be obviously renewed interest in who [the queen] was and what she meant to the Commonwealth and to the British people," he said. A selection of Queen Elizabeth's Christmas cards, correspondences and gifts could appear soon.
Since the exhibition opened less than 30 days ago, it's too soon to say if the queen's death has had any effect on attendance, Corelli said.
"We've had a steady, very strong and overwhelming response since the very beginning," Corelli said. "Whether that was because of the queen's death continuing to fuel additional interest, I can't be fully certain yet."
There always seems to be something new in the media or in popular culture about the royal family -- the Diana documentary on HBO, the latest season of "The Crown" on Netflix that streams next month, the relationships of Princes William and Harry and their wives and Charles' coronation next year.
"It's a story that I don't think will ever stop being told," Corelli said. "There will always be a different angle, a different headline, a different way of looking at it. And that's part of what makes the exhibit so fascinating."
General admission adult tickets with timed entry start at $29 (plus tax and fees) and $21 for children. Guests can upgrade to VIP tickets, which include entry at any time on the ticket date, priority access, a gift and audio guide.
The exhibition is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily with the last admission at 6 p.m.; visitors should allow 60 to 90 minutes. A portion of each ticket sale is donated to Pink Ribbons Crusade for its fight against breast cancer.