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Oklahoma Route 66 Museum to reopen after renovations

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton will reopen May 26 after $1.8 million in renovations since January.
BY MAX NICHOLS Published: April 29, 2012

Not wanting to change the thematic approach, the museum will continue to tell the story of Route 66 by decade, said Smith, but patrons will have the opportunity through modern technology to interact with the exhibits.

“For example, prerecorded conversations and the more common sounds of a diner will be overheard as patrons sit in booths located in the museum's Diner exhibit,” said Smith said. “Kiosks will be strategically placed and loaded with games, video excerpts and other interactive activities for patrons of all ages.

“An embedded children's tour will be a welcome attraction, as caricatures of popular models of classic cars guide them through the exhibits. The changes will create a more personal, hands-on Route 66 experience.”

Throughout the day of the Grand Opening Ceremony on May 26, visitors will tour the museum without charge. Jim Ross, author of “Oklahoma Route 66,” Route 66 photographer Shellee Graham and author-artist Jerry McClanahan will host a book-signing.

Local musician Jared Deck will perform rock 'n' roll hits heard during the heyday of Route 66.

Ross will emcee the 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will not interfere with the Clinton Route 66 Festival. Two new members of the Route 66 Hall of Fame will be inducted. Refreshments will be served.

The original Route 66 extended from Chicago southwest to St. Louis, then through Missouri, a corner of Kansas and on to Tulsa and Oklahoma City. From there, it extended west through Clinton, New Mexico and Arizona to Los Angeles.

Route 66 became known as the “Main Street of America” and was celebrated in books such as “The Mother Road” by Michael Wallis. The “Route 66” television series, which included its “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” theme song in 1960, helped make the road a pop culture icon.

By 1970, when Interstate 40 was completed in the western half of Oklahoma, the volume of traffic was shifting from Route 66, leading to the decommissioning of the road as a federal highway in 1985.

For those of us who traveled Route 66 in its heyday, as I did with my family in a 1939 Chevrolet back in 1947, memories of the old motels, diners, stores and classic cars remain intact. They again will be brought to life for us and for younger visitors who enjoy Oklahoma history, thanks to Clinton, the Friends of the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Federal Scenic Byways Program and numerous other public and private museum supporters.

Max Nichols writes a monthly column for the Oklahoma Historical Society.