Route 66 to be honored by Illinois State Museum for highway’s 100th anniversary

The Mother Road will be honored when its 100th anniversary rolls around.

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The Illinois State Museum announced that it will unveil a new exhibition for Route 66 in 2026, the Chicago Tribune reported. That coincides with the 100th anniversary of the iconic highway, which linked Chicago to Santa Monica, California. U.S. 66 came to life in 1926, and the stretch of road helped small communities grow, created cities in rural areas and changed the way of life across America.

The highway stretched across eight states -- Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

According to the National Parks Service, the road was officially decommissioned as a U.S. federal highway in 1985. In October 1984, Interstate 40 at Williams, Arizona, replaced the final section of the original road, the NPS said.

To prepare for the road’s 100th anniversary, the Illinois State Museum launched a “collecting initiative” in order to assemble objects from the road between 1926 and 1977, the Tribune reported.

The museum, located in Springfield, received a large contribution from the family of artist-cartographer Bob Waldmire, noted for his art pieces of the Mother Road.

The donations include original drawings, paintings, prints, postcards, and a manual typewriter Waldmire used to write newsletters, the Tribune reported. They also include a hand-painted map of Route 66 that was designed on the hood of Waldmire’s 1965 Mustang, the newspaper reported.

“It is an honor for the museum to receive this donation of Bob Waldmire’s art and objects,” museum curator Erika Holst said in a statement. “No one symbolized the freedom and opportunity of the Mother Road better than Bob Waldmire.”

There is also a Route 66 Museum, located in Pontiac, Illinois.