Illinois State Museum launches Route 66 collecting initiative

Illinois State Museum
A view inside the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, Ill., on Sept. 3, 2015. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

(The Center Square) – The Illinois State Museum announced Tuesday its Route 66 collecting initiative, which is focused on expanding the institution’s holdings of related historic objects ahead of 2026 exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of the Mother Road.

The state museum is seeking items that help illuminate Route 66’s history, according to a new release.

Bob Waldmire’s family has donated a significant collection of his art and personal belongings to the Illinois State Museum. That collection will serve as the foundation for the collecting initiative, according to the news release.

“Bob represented a sense of freedom and devil-may-care attitude to people who were more enmeshed in a routine,” his brother, Edwin “Buz” Waldmire, said in a statement.

Bob Waldmire was an itinerant artist and peace activist nomad, according to the release. Throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, Waldmire traveled from town to town along Route 66, creating and selling art and postcards. Then, in 1985, he bought a 1972 Volkswagen camper van that he lived out of in Arizona. The van was later the inspiration for the character Fillmore in the Disney-Pixar movie “Cars,” according to the news release.

The objects given to the museum include original drawings, paintings, prints, postcards, and a manual typewriter on which Bob composed his newsletters and correspondence. Other donations include a pair of patched, cutoff shorts he wore when traveling Route 66, a roadside display stand for selling postcards and the hood of his 1965 Mustang, hand-painted with a map of Route 66.

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

Those interested in contributing to the ISM Route 66 collecting initiative can learn more about the items the Museum is looking to add its collection at bit.ly/ISMRoute66.

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