SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Museum is seeking individuals to share their personal experiences with the original Route 66 in Illinois, including travelers, businesses that operated along the route, workers who built the highway, and others.

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Route 66 will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2026. Historians from the Illinois State Museum will record and share oral histories of people who can recall their connections to the historic roadway, which operated from 1926 until decommissioning in 1985.

“These interviews will help illustrate the significance of this important transportation achievement,” said Erika Holst, the museum’s curator of history.

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Specifically, museum historians would like to interview:

  • People who have memories of driving on Route 66 or traveling the highway with family or for business.
  • Those who were involved or whose families were involved in operating restaurants, hotels, or auto service businesses along the route.
  • Anyone who participated in the building, maintenance, or rerouting of the Mother Road.
  • First responders who worked along Route 66.
  • Those who have any other firsthand experiences with Route 66 to share.

“This project also gives us an opportunity to preserve memories of Illinois citizens for posterity,” said Amanda Bryden, registrar for the history collections of the Illinois State Museum and Illinois historic sites.

Anyone who has experienced Route 66 in one or more of these ways and would like to be part of the project can contact Route 66 project coordinator Judy Wagenblast at jwagenblastp@gmail.com. The oral history project is funded in part by the National Park Service.

Interview participants will be asked to sign a permission form granting legal rights to conduct and preserve the interview. Monetary compensation is not offered. Video recordings of the interviews and transcriptions will be made available to the public in an online database as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of Historic Route 66 in 2026.

About the Illinois State Museum: Established in 1877, the Illinois State Museum is a dynamic institution that inspires the exploration of Illinois' past and present to inform and enrich everyday life and promote stewardship of cultural and natural resources. Headquartered in Springfield with branch facilities in Lewistown and Lockport, ISM is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and a proud member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

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