Behind Closed Doors: Harley-Davidson Museum’s Archives

Go behind the scenes with a visit to the Harley- Davidson Archives.

| November/December 2020

archives
Outside the Harley-Davidson Museum at night.

Whether you’re a diehard Harleyphile or someone who simply enjoys motorcycles of all brands, shapes, sizes and colors, a visit to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The imposing structure, an edifice to the blue collar industries that helped forge Midwest America’s can-do spirit during the 20th century, is set on a 23-acre complex in Milwaukee’s original industrial heartland where a forest of factory smokestacks once dominated the skyline.

The museum’s huge steel girders supporting expansive window panes mimic the massive factories that crowded this stretch of Wisconsin’s lakeside landscape years ago when the Harley-Davidson Motor Company joined other Milwaukee-based industries (and breweries!) to fight — and win — two world wars, survive the Great Depression and later fend off price-point competition created by cheap labor from abroad. Indeed, the H-D Museum is all that, and more, paying homage not only to its namesake but to motorcycling in general. Granted, most of the exhibits celebrate the Bar & Shield, an iconic logo that’s aged well during the past century, but museum staff and volunteers still manage to shake out jingoistic fervor in favor of a passion that extends to all brands of motorcycles. Even so, exhibits and dioramas typically include the words “Harley-Davidson” and “Motor Company,” even “Bar & Shield,” for a reason — this is the Harley-Davidson Museum.



shelves
Just one of the racks of bikes in the Corporate Archives.

But there’s more to the museum’s story than just static and interactive displays and exhibits that consume the 130,000 square feet of floor space inside. There’s also the untold story of what’s collectively referred to by Motor Company employees as the Corporate Archives, what essentially constitutes the museum’s back room of collectibles, memorabilia, historic documents and art work, plus about two-thirds of The Motor Company’s entire collection of historic and landmark Harley-Davidson motorcycles that’s held in reserve because, simply, there’s not enough floor space to fit them all in the main exhibit hall at one time. Consequently, bikes are periodically rotated in and out of the museum’s exhibit arena; those “off the clock” are temporarily stored to await a future date back on the exhibit floor, or for loan to a related event or other museum.



The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5.00 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $29.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $34.95 for a one year subscription!




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter