It was 17 years ago, back in 1995, that the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum was opened in Clinton by the Oklahoma Historical Society after a $1.8 million project that was accomplished with a remarkable public-private partnership.
“The Historical Society had pushed ahead with the development of the museum despite an 18.8 percent budget cut,” said Kathy Dickson, OHS
“The biggest source of funding came from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, which provided an $820,000 grant, the first ISTEA project in Oklahoma.”
Now, after closing in January for renovations, the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum will reopen at 2 p.m. on May 26 during Clinton's 2012 Route 66 Festival. The museum will celebrate $500,000 in improvements that once again were accomplished with extensive public and private fundraising
“The Route 66 Museum offers unique insight into American history, reflecting the tremendous role of Route 66 and Oklahoma in connecting the Midwest with the West Coast starting in 1926,” said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. “It also represents a turning point in the way we manage and develop museums across the state.
“Since 1995, this museum has set a standard for entrepreneurial innovation, a greater reliance on partnerships and a commitment to the highest standards of quality.”
With 396 miles of Route 66 protected in Oklahoma for its legendary and historic role in America's development, the Route 66 Museum has attracted visitors from every continent. These included a record 33,000 visitors in 2009, with 35 percent coming from 23 foreign countries.
The Friends of the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, who have continued to support the Route 66 Museum since 1995, recognized that the exhibits had become worn and dated, said Director Pat Smith of the museum.
“Following the designation of Route 66 as a scenic byway in 2007, the museum received a grant of $120,000 from the National Scenic Byways Program and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation,” Smith said. “The Friends of the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, with support from the City of Clinton, and the Oklahoma Historical Society collaborated to raise the remainder of funds.”
In addition to $19,000 in state funding, OHS personnel provided “a lot of sweat equity” toward the $500,000 renovation, said Dickson.