Oklahoma Route 66 Museum Celebrates 25th Anniversary

When the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton officially opened on September 23, 1995, it was the first facility in the nation dedicated to the history and culture of Route 66, the most famous historic highway in the world. It is the largest museum from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, dedicated to the history and culture of Route 66.

With over 930,000 visitors in 25 years, the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum has captivated the attention of people from around the world. Since the grand opening celebration held on September 23, 1995, the museum has proven to be a must-see for travelers— both Route 66ers and everyday vacationers.   

In 2007, the accomplishments of the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum played a large role in Clinton hosting the  International Festival Route 66 Festival, which brought over 20,000 people to Clinton. The success of the 2007 festival also led to the transformation of the community’s annual Hot Dog Daze into Clinton’s Route 66 Festival.

In 2012, after 17 years, the museum completed a full renovation of all exhibit galleries, bringing the facility into the 21st Century. This achievement was celebrated with a special grand opening ceremony on May 26, 1012.

The museum has hosted a plethora of special events which attract Route 66ers from around the globe.  Beginning in 1996, the museum has held Route 66 anniversary celebrations every five years. These celebrations have featured premiere Route 66 historian Michael Wallis, as well as special exhibits by other Route 66 artists and authors such as the late Bob Waldmire, Shellee Graham, Jim Ross, Jerry McClanahan, Kathy Anderson and many more.

Also, the Oklahoma Route 66 Association inducts special Oklahomans into the Oklahoma Route 66 Hall of Fame.  Inductions are held every two years for individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion and/or preservation of Route 66. The selection includes a nomination and committee process conducted by the association. The winners’ plaques are displayed in the Hall of Fame, which is located in the museum’s WOW! Room.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancelation of this year’s festivities, please help the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum celebrate this milestone anniversary by visiting sometime during the year.

The museum’s galleries are designed to offer visitors a personal journey through the history of the nation’s most revered highway.  Encounter the iconic ideas, images and myths of the Mother Road. Learn about the dreams and labor needed to make the road a reality. Experience the dust bowl as thousands streamed along the road, away from drought and despair and towards the “land of promise.”  Listen to the sounds of the Big Band Era, when the roar of the big trucks and the “Welcome home!” cries to returning soldiers dominated the road. Touch the counter and sit in the booth of the 1950’s diner and feel the open road as America’s families vacationed along the length of Route 66.  The museum also offers changing special exhibits, focusing on the Route 66 experience in our new Now and Future Gallery. And don’t forget to step into our gift shop for some Route 66 Memorabilia!!

While personal hygiene has always been important, the museum has introduced new safety procedures. Staff members ensure all areas are clean and sanitized. In accordance with Oklahoma State Department of Health guidelines, all visitors, staff, volunteers, contractors and vendors are required to wear face masks in public areas of the Oklahoma Historical Society museums, sites and affiliates, including the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.

The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and is closed Sunday and Monday. The museum is located at 2229 W. Gary Blvd. in Clinton, OK. Regular admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for children, and ages 5 and under are free.  For further information, please contact Pat Smith at telephone (580) 323-7866 or via email patsm@okhistory.org.

The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve, and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state.  Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.

Senate Passes Route 66 Centennial Legislation

From the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership:

Washington, DC – The Route 66 Centennial Commission Act (S1014) passed by unanimous consent out of the US Senate on August 10, 2020. After the measure is reconciled with the bill already passed by the House, it will go to President Trump for his signature. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced the bill on April 3, 2019, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of historic Route 66. The Commission will help plan this historic event for this iconic road that symbolizes the heritage of travel and the shared legacy of Americans seeking a better life.

Fifteen Commissioners will be appointed on the recommendation of the President, members of Congress, and Governors of the eight Route 66 states. Appointees will have demonstrated both a dedication to educating others about the importance of historical figures and events, and a substantial knowledge and appreciation of Route 66.

The Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, is taking the lead in orchestrating the celebration of Route 66’s 100th birthday gala celebration in 2026, and it is starting immediately. A five-year series of birthday celebration initiatives begins in 2021, culminating in 2026, the road’s centennial year. Think of the initiatives as “birthday presents” that individuals, corporations, foundations, organizations, communities, and businesses are invited to give Route 66 over the next five years.

The purpose of these gifts is to support Route 66 through preservation, economic development, promotion, research, and/or education projects. The goal is to position the historic highway, the communities along the road, and the people who live there for success during the next 100 years. “We are very thankful to Senators Duckworth and Inhofe for their support of the Commission bill”, said Bill Thomas, Road Ahead Chairman. “They, along with the state Route 66 Associations and many grassroots supporters of Route 66, have put in place what we need to plan and carry out a “Party with a Purpose” – helping Route 66.”

Route 66 was commissioned in 1926 and decommissioned in 1985. Though no longer part of the US highway system, the road continues to be a popular tourist destination for both domestic and international travelers.

Established in 2015, with the support of the National Park Service and the World Monuments Fund, The Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership’s mission is to revitalize and sustain Route 66 as a national and international icon through partnerships focused on promotion, preservation,
research and education, and economic development.

Bill Thomas, Chairman
Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership