Online Exhibits

"One always wonders about roads not taken.”
Warren Christopher, American statesman, 1925-2011

Despite being formally decommissioned more than a quarter-century ago, Route 66 lives on in the collective memory of America. It embodies a sense of freedom and opportunity that come with the open road.

In 1992, the 66th anniversary of the commissioning of the road brought with it a renewal of interest in the route. Parts of the road have been renamed “Historic Route 66,” turn-by-turn guides have been published leading drivers along what’s left of the road they never got the chance to travel or want to revisit, and in 1999 President Clinton signed the National Route 66 Preservation Bill, which provided ten million dollars (in matching funds) to maintain and restore, not the route itself, but the historic sites along side it.

The USA may not have a single Main Street anymore, but the ideal of such a unifying road has not been lost. There is a sense of nostalgia about Route 66, even for those who have never laid eyes upon its fabled pavement. It is the road of great writers, musicians, and even criminals. It is the home of the first McDonald's. It is the imagined path that every road trip travels. Route 66 is America's road now as much as ever, thanks to the words and images -- including road maps -- that have made it a legend.

Illinois 66

Route 66 associations have been formed in a number of states, promoting their specific contributions along the historic road. Maps like this one published by the state of Illinois highlight the history of Route 66 along with cities and tourist destinations between Chicago and the Missouri state line.

Illinois Historic Route 66.
Illinois Department of Transportation, 1996.
OML French 5324.

Route 66

This 66th anniversary map published in 1992 depicts not only Route 66, but also a variety of images that represent American history through the years between 1926 and 1992, such as Cadillac Ranch, the Moon landing, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Hollywood blockbusters. Such details as the postcards and pictures of historic events work to emphasize the nostalgic feelings that have historically been attached to 66 as well as create a a personal touch to what is, ultimately, a scientific tool.

Route 66: 66th Anniversary, 1926-1992.
Chicago: Rand McNally and Company, 1992.
OML French 6278.