Route 66 - Radiance, Rust & Revival, Albuquerque Museum

Route 66-Radiance, Rust & Revival

The Route 66-Radiance, Rust & Revival Exhibit at Albuquerque Museum ended in Oct. 2016. Hope you didn’t miss it!

Route 66 has soul. And I mean the word ‘soul’ in the informal sense, the way Black folks use it. Soul food describes a Black American style of cooking born in hard times. During slavery they had to make do with eating animal parts and vegetables most households would discard… pig intestines, pigs feet, turnip greens… However, they took these humble ingredients and found ways to them into a poor man’s feast.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - Hard times on Route 66
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – Hard times on Route 66

Route 66 is like soul food. It too was born in tough times. Most of the roadside eateries and motels that served the motoring public on the Mother Road were quickly built structures made of cheap cinder block and wood. However, scrappy pioneers used color, neon, over the top signage, and sheer audacity to turn common ‘greasy spoons’ and humble motels into eye-catching roadside attractions. This was a poor man’s feast for cash-strapped travelers. Yes, Route 66 has soul… And, like soul food, it was born in hard times.

The Aztec Motel, Route 66, Albuquerque (now demolished)
The Aztec Motel, Route 66, Albuquerque (now demolished)

Route 66 at the Albuquerque Museum

The exhibit Route 66-Radiance, Rust & Revival on the Mother Road at the Albuquerque Museum reminds us of the hard times that drove many people to take to the Mother Road and spurred its development.

The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s forced waves of migrants to take to the Mother Road. With all of the romantic images that Route 66 brings to mind, it was a rough road of last resort for many desperate families in its formative years.

Through art, artifacts, and personal stories, the exhibition Route 66 – Radiance Rust & Revival on the Mother Road at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History tells the story of Albuquerque’s role in the history of Route 66.

This exhibit does not romanticize Route 66. Rather, it offers a candid look at why and how people took to the Mother Road and the difficulties they overcame.

This exhibit also has a display featuring the Green Book, authored by Victor H. Green, a postal service worker from Harlem, N.Y., who began publishing the guide in 1936 to help African Americans avoid, as he put it, “embarrassing moments” in the age of segregation after motorists started exploring long-distance roadways including Route 66. Albuquerque had a few motels (the landmark De Anza Motor Lodge being one) willing to provide accommodations for Black travelers during the era of segregation.

Albuquerque Museum of Art and History
Albuquerque Museum of Art and History

Let me start off by saying that if you are a Route 66 buff, then attending this exhibit is a no-brainer. Just go. However, this exhibit will also capture the interest of anyone with a family lineage in Albuquerque, and any who make this city a travel destination. The exhibit does a great job of telling the story of Albuquerque’s role in the development of Route 66 in an engaging way.

Route 66, Albuquerque Museum

The selection of art and artifacts is well curated and gives a wonderful visual reference not only to the history of Albuquerque’s Route 66 but also modern day features that makes it an ongoing source of fascination.

No photography is allowed (a bummer), so I was not able to make a visual record of my visit. Nevertheless, visiting this important exhibition will add greatly to your knowledge and enjoyment of Albuquerque’s Route 66. Highly recommended!

Route 66, Albuquerque Museum


The Albuquerque Museum is located at 2000 Mountain Road NW, at the intersection of Mountain Road and 19th Street, directly west of Tiguex Park in the area of Albuquerque known as “Old Town”

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