Route 66 redux: National recognition for America's mother road
Cultural landscapes can be likened to living persons in that they can acquire distinct personalities. Such personalities, when developed from adequately diverse sources and accreted during sufficient lengths of time, may transcend ordinary landscape personalities and thereby acquire unique identities, analogous to those of individual human beings. The ultimate stage in this development is both the tacit and overt consensus that a landscape's identity possesses a social value, which is simultaneously unique and universal, and which may lead to its elevation to the status of an institution. The result of such development is the emergence of a ‘Meta-landscape’, i.e. the creation of a new entity, wherein the landscape becomes the subject of the landscape. U.S. Route 66 provides a classic example of this phenomenon. Congress has before it a proposal to culminate a process, begun by Congress itself in 1990, to preserve the Route 66 Corridor in a manner tantamount to that of a ‘National Historic Highway.’ At the age of 72 years, the road has grown from two-lane blacktop to the status of cultural legend, and now verges on formal institutionalization, which would be the ultimate acknowledgment of ‘Route 66, Meta-highway.’*
*Originally published in MAI Vol. 37, No. 2. Republished here with corrected author name.
0337: American history
0617: Public administration
0323: American studies