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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK
Route 66 Museum located along -- what else?! -- Route 66 in Clinton, OK Photo: Hedrich Blessing

Route 66 Museum

This museum celebrates Route 66, the historic highway known as "America's Main Street." The 2,400 mile, two-lane road, completed in 1932, passed through eight states and three time zones en route between Chicago and Los Angeles. Lined with red Burma Shave signs, gas station outposts, concrete tepees, and quirky, dusty, little American towns, Route 66 was the road to the promised land, California.

From the road's very beginning it was clear that Route 66 was not just another American highway. Immortalized in song, prose, poetry, dance, and a television show, Route 66 may be the most famous highway in the world. The road recaptures America's landscape before cookie-cutter housing developments, franchise eateries, and shopping malls. Instead, it evokes the time when roadside diners, motor courts, mom and pop truck stops, neon signs and classic American automobiles provided a unique driving culture.

Oklahoma was the heart of Route 66, from Quapaw to Texola, the highway brought travelers 400 miles across the state. Travelers can experience more vintage Route 66 in Oklahoma than anywhere else. The Route 66 Museum, which opened in 1995, was built in Clinton, a small town of 10,000 people, along the drive. The award-winning museum building was designed by Oklahoma architect, Rand Elliott, a sophisticated heartland modernist who renovated, expanded, and decorated a roadside building to house this paean to highway culture. The museum serves several objectives: to explore the cultural impact of the highway with an overview of the automobile and road building technology; to study Oklahoma's Route 66 history by mixing academics with pop culture; to provide a forum for educational programs; and to promote the sense of the highway as a historic entity, which will encourage tourism and preservation along the roadway.

Route 66 Museum developed out of the Museum of the Western Trails, which opened in 1968, and was operated by the Oklahoma Industrial Trust and Recreation Department. In 1991, the museum was transferred to the Oklahoma Historic Society, which decided to redevelop the museum to focus on transportation and Route 66. The Route 66 Museum project was funded with federal, state, and private funds, with the citizens of Clinton raising more than $200,00. Oklahoma communities along Route 66 joined in the museum project by constructing satellite exhibits in their own towns. Each of their exhibits tells the local story of Route 66 and directs visitors to the next exhibit. A special Route 66 guidebook, published by the state department of tourism, promotes Oklahoma points of interest along Route 66, and highlights the museum. About 25,000 people visit the museum each year.

Documentation includes the project report, photos, newspaper and magazine articles, the book, Museum Architecture , two oral histories, an audio tour, and the grand opening program.

Originally submitted by: Frank D. Lucas, Representative (6th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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