Harley-Davidson MuseumApril 25, 2018
For 115 years, Harley-Davidson has embodied the ideals of American freedom. Nowhere is this sense of craftsmanship and admiration felt more than at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Opening to the public in 2008 and built in an historically industrial area of the city, the 130,000sq foot complex contains more than 450 motorcycles and hundreds of thousands of artifacts. The museum attracts over 300,000 visitors to the three building complex annually.
Harley-Davidson broke ground on the $75 million dollar complex with a groundbreaking ceremony that included legendary Harley-Davidson dirt track motorcycle racer, Scott Parker, breaking ground by doing a burnout with a Harley-Davidson XL883R Sportster, instead of with the traditional golden shovel.
Historic Harley-Davidson items that tell the company’s story and history, such as photographs, posters, advertisements, clothes, trophies, video footage of vintage and contemporary motorcycling, and interactive exhibits are spread throughout the facility. The past is brought to life within the galleries and exhibits that celebrate the esteemed history of the motorcycle giant.
A visitor favorite is the The Harley-Davidson Journey. The journey is told via a series of interconnected galleries exhibit the Harley-Davidson’s chronological history. The galleries relate the company’s history from its origins in a 10×15-foot wooden shack to its current status as the top U.S. motorcycle manufacturer, producing more than 330,000 bikes each year. The centerpiece of the gallery is “Serial Number One”, the oldest known Harley-Davidson in existence, which is encased in glass. The glass enclosure sits within a floor-embedded, illuminated outline of the backyard shed the motor company was founded in.
A Knucklehead engine is displayed disassembled into several pieces within The Engine Room. There are also several interactive touch screen elements that show how Harley motors, including Panhead and Shovelhead motors work. The Clubs and Competition gallery includes displays and information about Harley-Davidson’s racing history. The gallery includes a section of a replica wooden board track, suspended in the air at a 45-degree incline. The wooden track features vintage video footage of actual board track races, and attached 1920s-era Harley-Davidson racing motorcycles; the bikes that raced on board tracks at 100 miles -per-hour. Fatalities were common, which eventually led to the banning of wooden board tracks for motorcycle racing.
Formerly part of the Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary Open Road Tour. The Gas Tank Gallery exhibit displays 100 of Harley-Davidson’s most memorable tank graphics, spanning 70 years, selected by the company’s styling department and reproduced on “Fat Bob” tanks.
The Custom Culture gallery covers Harley-Davidson’s impact on American and global culture. The centerpiece of the Custom Culture Gallery is “King Kong”, a 13-foot (4.0 m)-long, two-engine Harley-Davidson motorcycle customized by Felix Predko. The exhibit also features exact replicas of the customized Harley-Davidson bikes ridden by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in the 1969 American movie, “Easy Rider”, including Fonda’s “Captain America” chopper and Hopper’s “Billy Bike”. Two of each of the two choppers were created, and one “Captain America” was destroyed in the film’s production.
The Harley-Davidson Motor Company’s corporate archives are also housed on the museum’s grounds. The archives supplied more than 85% of the items on display in the museum. Since 1915, the company’s founders decided to pull one bike from the production line to be preserved in an archive.
The Museum provides an app that will send you pop notifications, interesting facts and behind the scences info for whatever exhibit you’re looking at. It also has the ability to offer coupons and built-in commerce features to allow for easy purchase of items at the restaurant, gift store, and more. It can help guide you and navigate for the best experience possible at the Harley Davidson Museum.
When planning your visit to the Museum, stop by the Iron Horse Hotel next door. The Iron Horse provides the perfect accomodations for bikers and non bikers alike.
For more information on the Museum visit: www.harley-davidson.com/us/en/museum/visit/visitor-information.html