Showing posts with label Harley-Davidson Museum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Harley-Davidson Museum. Show all posts

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Visit to Hog Heaven

What else would be parked in the parking lot?

I am not a biker.

I have to admit though, when the 100th anniversary of the Harley-Davidson company happened a few years ago, I couldn't help but notice the sheer quantity of people who l-o-v-e-d their bike and the company that made it so much, they came from all over to ride into Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the festivities. Many of these people passed through Illinois on the way there and you could tell they were having a blast.

Were I to buy something motorized and on two wheels, I'm more of a Vespa or Honda Metropolitan kind of gal. Yet the rabid, passionate brand identification of Harley riders made me want to know more about the Harley mystique. There is nothing I love more than exploring yet another one of America's many subcultures.

I had total respect for the success that this company has achieved marketing iconic machines made in America (could you see the manufacture of Harleys outsourced to China? I couldn't. The mystique would not be the same).

The new museum opened in July 2008

I must not be the only one who's interested. This summer the company opened a very cool, very hip museum celebrating all things Harley. And like someone who never wants to give up the memories of the love of their life, this company and the people in it, saved every memento from the very beginning. The long view of a relationship this community of bike lovers has with their beloved product is amazingly rare.

Until I came to see this, I didn't realize that Harleys are a global phenomenon. Ninety percent of the visitors in the museum the day I was there were from Europe or Asia. When I saw the look of appreciation on their faces at the distinctive sound of a Harley starting up, it moved me. People from all over care about this distinctly American cultural institution! Who knew? Is this how you feel when tourists come see your sights in your area? What cultural institution where you live is similarly appreciated?

It makes me happy that people love this because it represents the best of America: freedom and the power of the individual.

In keeping with the industrial feel of Harleys,
the benches outside the museum are I-beams.

Harley admission staff welcome people
from all over the globe

Admission is $16 for adults and an audio tour is available for $5. I highly recommend adding the audio tour because sound is such an important part of the experience and there's lots of commentary from people who've been involved from the beginning.

The very first Harley from 1903

I would think a reintroduction of vintage Harleys
could steal market share from scooters.
I could ride this.

Bikers debating the relative merits
of individual bikes in the
world's largest collection of Harleys

A mother and twenty-something daughter rode this bike and sidecar across country in the early part of the century. When the bike sprang a flat tire, the daughter walked into town from the desert to get a new innertube; her mom needed to survive for two days without food and water armed with a pistol she didn't know how to use. They made it without regrets!

Way cool vintage motorcycle toys

The mom in me thinks there couldn't be a museum better
than this one
for showing a teen
the fun of a career in industrial design.

This display lets you listen to the sounds
of Harley engines through the ages.
"Form follow function -
but both report to emotion."
~Harley-Davidson Chief Styling Officer
Remember the movie "Easy Rider"
with Jack Nickleson and Peter Fonda?
Here are reproductions of the bikes.
One of the most fun and campy spots of the museum
is a collection of motorcycle movie clips.

Harley staffer Gary can answer your questions
in one of the motorcycle galleries

Customizing your Harley
is a big part of making a bike your own
This guy obviously did not worry about being over-the-top

Neither did this guy

Harley-Davidson has created the finest example
of corporate archiving I have ever seen.
They have everything: early sales brochures,
board minutes,
individual motorcycles,
and motorcycles of celebrities like Elvis.
On Fridays the museum offers a "back roads tour"
of the archives.

Here an archivist carefully unpacks
numerous items of Harley clothing

I was ready to test drive a bike after that tour!
Bravo to the vision of men and women in Milwaukee
who created a great product and a storied company

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