Arts & Entertainment

Museum explores cultural significance of Route 66

An old cafe along Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois on July 3, 2003, sits in disrepair and was shut down after business screeched to a halt when Route 66 was bypassed by the high speed Interstate.
An old cafe along Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois on July 3, 2003, sits in disrepair and was shut down after business screeched to a halt when Route 66 was bypassed by the high speed Interstate.
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Tens of thousands of people visit the Arizona Route 66 Museum each year, aiming to get a feel for what it was like to take the old highway route that crossed eight states to connect Chicago to the West Coast.

Visitors to the Kingman museum spend hours looking at displays, photographs and life-size dioramas of the groups and events that depict the evolution of the highway that came to fame in the mid-20th century, the Kingman Daily Miner reported.

A view of Route 66 in Arizona, circa 1960.
A view of Route 66 in Arizona, circa 1960.
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In his four years volunteering with the museum, T.R. Srigley said he sees just as many foreign tourists as Americans. The diverse appeal of the museum is evidenced by shelves of brochures, which describes the more than 20 exhibits in six different languages.

"It seems to me like a lot of people are from China and Europe. There's an awful lot of them," Srigley said. "They know a lot about Route 66; it's pretty amazing. They know more about Route 66 than the Great Wall of China."

A visitor tours the
A visitor tours the "Cadillac Ranch" on historic Route 66 in Amarillo on July 6, 2003. In 1974, a collective of artists called Ant Farm placed 10 Cadillacs, ranging from a 1949 Club Coupe to a 1963 Sedan, in a wheat field located west of Amarillo.
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Visitors can see a 1950 Studebaker Champion, originally priced at $1,487. Another exhibit features a rusty old Ford truck loaded with pots and pans, furniture and other worldly belongings of an Oklahoma family fleeing the Dust Bowl, emblematic of the Joad family in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."

The museum, operated by the Mohave Pioneers Historical Society, opened in 2001 and draws about 50,000 visitors each year.

Route 66 souvenirs, including shot glasses, salt and pepper shakers and bells are for sale in a shop along the road in Elk City, Oklahoma on July 6, 2003.
Route 66 souvenirs, including shot glasses, salt and pepper shakers and bells are for sale in a shop along the road in Elk City, Oklahoma on July 6, 2003.
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"This really is the museum that helps explain the significance of Route 66 to our culture through the ages," said Josh Noble, Kingman's director of tourism.

Harley (right) and Annabelle Russell, the self-proclaimed
Harley (right) and Annabelle Russell, the self-proclaimed "Mediocre Music Makers," entertain passing Route 66 tourists at their Sandhills Curiosity shop, a former meat store, in the largely deserted main strip of Erick, Oklahoma on July 6, 2003.
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The museum is located in the former Kingman Powerhouse, which once lighted the way for early Route 66 travelers, said Shannon Rossiter, director of the Mohave Museum of History and Arts.

The historic building was constructed between 1907 and 1911 to produce power for mines. The facility was mothballed following the construction of the Hoover Dam. It was restored and reopened as a visitors' center in 1997.

The ruins of a gas station on historic Route 66, which runs through Mojave Trails National Monument, are seen at night on August 26, 2017 in Ludlow, California.
The ruins of a gas station on historic Route 66, which runs through Mojave Trails National Monument, are seen at night on August 26, 2017 in Ludlow, California.
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