Spectroscopic measurements in the vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) regime are difficult to make due to extremely large absorption of VUV radiation in most materials. This paper describes an experimental setup designed for studying the optical emission during pulsed surface flashover for the wavelength range between 115 nm to 180 nm at atmospheric pressures with a focus on the scheme used to excite the spark gap. The surface flashover of interest occurred on an MgF2 window (front side of window in air, backside in vacuum) imaged onto the entrance slit of a 1 m vacuum spectrograph. Emission spectra were recorded with an Andor DH740 series ICCD camera. All data was taken at atmospheric pressure with a flashover spark length of about 8 mm created by a pulser designed for a 500 ns pulse, max 50 kV output. The centerpiece of this pulser is the CCSTA14N40 thyristor by Solidtron / Silicon Power which features a rate of change current of maximum 30 kA/μs and a holdoff voltage of up to 4 kV. A pulse transformer with Metglas® core was used to elevate the voltage to 50 kV with a rise time of 180 ns and a peak current of 500 A. The pulser was designed for a repetition rate of 10 Hz and is triggered by TTL pulses. Discussed in this paper, along with the measured spectra and their relation to the physics of surface flashover at atmospheric pressure, will be the design of the pulser.