Read all about it: mapping and interpreting Route 66 in Oklahoma
Posted in: Cultural Resources
The Cultural Resources Program of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been undertaking innovative work to document and interpret the story of Route 66. This work was the focus of Are We There Yet? Preservation of Roadside Architecture and Attractions, a symposium hosted by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) of the National Park Service in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Together ODOT and I wrote an article and gave a presentation at this symposium highlighting their efforts telling the story of Route 66 and interpreting its history. The article was published in the book pictured to the right.
ODOT works to provide both creative and traditional methods of the interpretation of the history of Route 66 to expand our understanding of the road’s historical significance. Two efforts highlighted in the presentation included:
Route 66 Online Story Map
An interactive web-based view of historic roadbed and road-related resources located along the route in Oklahoma enhances public engagement and understanding of the local history surrounding Route 66 in an innovative format. This exciting new tool digitizes historical data and incorporates extensive construction history, historic images and maps of the road ODOT has gathered.
Outdoor Interpretive Panels
ODOT’s numerous outdoor displays tell the story of the highway in a different way, highlighting the bridges along the iconic corridor. These displays offer an example of a more traditional method of disseminating history of Route 66 to the public. ODOT is working to install interpretive panels that discuss the history of one bridge that has been preserved (the historic 1916 11th Street Bridge over the Arkansas River in Tulsa), and another bridge that was relocated (the Bird Creek K-truss Bridge that spans in a city park in Catoosa near the famous Blue Whale roadside attraction).
- The Book – Hosted by the NCPTT of the National Park Service, the Are We There Yet? Preservation of Roadside Architecture and Attractions symposium had many other articles and presentations focused on the treatment and preservation of resources that catered to tourists who traveled American roads during the 1920s into the 1970s. Abstracts of the presentations were published by the NCPTT and are richly illustrated, with 17 chapters on topics ranging from Route 66 to neon signs to gas station restoration projects. The book is available for purchase here.
- ODOT’s Cultural Resources Program – ODOT’s website provides additional information on Route 66 in Oklahoma, including a historic context and list of Route 66 repositories with resources from the Oklahoma Historical Society and a mobile tour of sites along Route 66.
Historic roads are long linear structures that present many challenges but have great histories. I have had the pleasure of working on Route 66 in Oklahoma and California and am involved with documenting, evaluating, and managing historic highways in several other states.
ODOT’s work fostering public understanding of the significance of this historic highway is an example of their commitment to the preservation, interpretation, and management of Route 66. Cultivating public understanding of Oklahoma’s history serves to promote historic preservation when possible and is an important part of being a good steward for historic resources.
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