Research Route 66
The history of Route 66 is paved with paper—postcards, photographs, maps, menus, oral histories and other primary source documentation.
To bring more attention to the historical record of Route 66, the National Park Service (NPS) is collaborating with archival institutions along the route to develop Research Route 66. The mission of Research Route 66 is to stimulate the collection and preservation of historical records, and increase their accessibility to the public.
When historians want to tell the story of Route 66, they not only drive the road, they visit local libraries, archives, museums and universities in search of information. There they might find maps that document the highway’s alignments, photographs of long-vanished motels and other businesses, and oral histories revealing what it was like to travel or make a living along the road.
When historian Arthur Krim researched his book, Route 66: Iconography of the American Highway (2005), he not only consulted books already written about the highway, but mined the collections of the National Record Center, the Federal Highway Administration, the Cynthia Troup Archive and other institutions, for documents and images to enlarge his story.
The importance of archival sources is unquestioned. With each map, tourist brochure, diary or photograph, we learn more about the highway—what it looked like, who used it, what it was like to drive it.
Archival information is useful not only to scholars and students, but to tourists looking to enrich their travel experience; property owners wanting to learn more about their building or business; local communities wanting to promote their town history; and government agencies responsible for managing aspects of the highway.
Ten institutions have partnered with the NPS as lead repositories and have contributed significantly to the development of the initiative. Current goals are to promote the archives; identify important Route 66 collections throughout the states; encourage cross-collaboration between archives, libraries and museums; and develop this website as a rich resource of archival information to help preserve the memory and materials of the route.
The Research Route 66 website is dedicated to the memory of Ann Massmann (1964-2015), Southwest Studies Librarian at the University of New Mexico, Center for Southwest Research. Ann was a visionary force behind the creation and development of Research Route 66, and through it, her devotion to preserving and making historical records accessible to the public lives on.