By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Call him the sign savior. Vintage neon signs that once belonged to Philadelphia-area businesses are back on display. But this time as part of a temporary art gallery in University City. It’s all thanks to a “bright” idea between a neon sign collector and Drexel University.

The old Firestone tire building near 32nd and Market Streets was recently purchased by Drexel University. A student center is planned, but for now it’s a pop-up art gallery, where vintage neon signs are part of an exhibition called “See the Light.”

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Included are lighted signs from Pep Boys, a kosher meat store and record and ice cream shops.

Len Davidson of Fairmount owns the tubular designs. He says it’s not just about the restored art, but about Philadelphia history too.

“It’s not just a matter of saving these signs. It’s preserving the culture that these signs are about,” Davidson said. “That culture involves certain foods, it involves neighborhoods, neighborhood history.”

Len Davidson (credit: John McDevitt)

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The exhibit has just 29 of Davidson’s 150 sign collection. Some date back to the 1950’s and 1960’s.

“I love it. It seems like kind of a cut out of the past. The signs are actually quite cool looking,” said Drexel student Dillon Welsh. “I would recommend that anyone who hasn’t seen it stop by and take a look.”

Davidson is working on getting his entire collection under one roof one day in a museum-like setting.

“It’s art, it’s history, it’s material culture,” said Nancy Rogo Trainer, spokeswoman for Drexel University. “It says something about the neighbor hood and I think it says something about what we aspire to be at Drexel, too. The ideas of being artistic, about being informed about things and taking opportunities.”

“See the Light” is plugged in from 8 a.m. until midnight. It runs through September.

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