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News from the Harley Davidson Museum

Harleys on the highway
Harleys on the highway
courtesy Harley Davidson

The Harley-Davidson Museum opens its 2014 summer exhibit, The American Road, on June 14. The exhibit takes visitors on a journey highlighting the evolution of the quintessential American road trip from its early beginnings in 1930 to what it has come to represent in pop culture today. Through hundreds of artifacts and personal stories, visitors are reminded of how Americana and traveling the open road are essential parts for creating a truly American experience.

The mystique of taking on the American open road is a must-do experience for many people around the world. Nothing quite expresses the ideals of freedom and exploration like the vision of a highway meandering through the great panorama seen on a U.S. highway or country road. The American Road tells the story of how these road systems, along with other major historical events, inspired and encouraged people to pack up and see America. These trips happened in automobiles, RVs and on motorcycles, signifying the essence of American culture and Harley-Davidson’s culture.

“Nearly everyone has a fond memory of exploring the country with family and friends,” said Bill Davidson, vice president of the Harley-Davison Museum. “The American Road speaks to these memories and enjoying the freedom and independence that accompanies the journey and adventure."

The exhibit features photographs, film footage, slide shows and countless pieces of vintage travel memorabilia that depict the evolution of the road-travel landscape in the United States. Curated in three phases, the exhibit highlights the following:

· Gallery One - The birth of leisure travel. In the 1930s, American families begin taking road trips. Their destinations originally focused on nature and visiting places such as the National Park, but as roadside businesses evolved, the road trip itself became the excursion. On display is a late-1930s house car designed by American industrial designer and Milwaukee native Brooks Stevens, and a four-foot long model for a late-1930s trailer used by salesman at the time to showcase all of its amenities.

· Gallery Two - The “Golden Era” of travel. Beginning post-World War II, more Americans than ever owned cars and took road trips, and highway restaurants, service stations and motels evolved to better serve their needs. This is also when the emergence of roadside attractions, road games and other modern-day symbols of travel gained popularity. On display are a 1962 Ford Country Squire station wagon, a fully functional, mid-1950s 11-foot-tall Siesta Motel neon sign from Saugus, Mass., and the head of an approximately twenty-foot-tall ‘Muffler Man’ fiberglass statue manufactured in the 1960s.

· Gallery Three - The road trip in the modern-era. This gallery introduces visitors to people whose lives are inspired by the American road and reflects the fundamentals of this America experience. Their stories are told through artwork and depict historic routes like the Lincoln Highway and Route 66. On display is a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu outfitted with original artwork from the renowned artist and cartographer Bob Waldmire and photography by Jeff Kunkle, co-founder of Vintage Roadside.

The American Road runs through Sept. 1, and access to the exhibit is included with the purchase of general Museum admission - adults: $18; children (5-17 years): $10; children (under 5): free with adult admission; seniors (65+), military and students (with ID): $12. Special road trip themed events planned during the run of the exhibit are listed below.

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