The Visible City app, along with an online exhibition, is an extension of "Neon Vancouver, Ugly Vancouver," a permanent installation of 22 of the 19,000 neon signs that once populated the city.
The two neighbourhoods have persisted as vibrant "neon hubs" where new business owners are putting in place contemporary light installations, the museum says.
The free app makes use of augmented reality technology: users can hold their cameras up to the present-day scene to see the same location as it appeared in the 1950s, '60s or '70s. Besides pointing out current neon signs, the app features stories about ones that have disappeared.
The museum, which positions itself as a leader in "the reimagining of museums," claims it is the first cultural institution in North America to make use of augmented reality technology.
Big band musician Dal Richards, Joe Keithley of D.O.A. and Judy Graves, advocate for the homeless, are among well-known Vancouverites contributing stories for the app.
Visible City will be available for Android and Apple devices after its official launch on April 30.