Harley-Davidson Museum: Passion And History On Wheels

Federico Tibytt

Built on a 20-acre site in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the museum tells the story and cultural significance of America's most important motorcycle brand.

The Harley-Davidson Museum is an architectural jewel that goes through the brand’s more than 100 years of history, an emblematic company that represents the American culture. Owning a Harley is much more than having a motorcycle. Driving any Harley model represents a lifestyle that motorcycle fans are proud of.

Based on this sense of community, the Harley-Davidson Museum, located in the city of Milwaukee, exhibits more than 450 motorcycles and thousands of historical objects, which document the evolution and growth of one of the most important motorcycle manufacturers in the world.

Harley-Davidson Museum
Harley-Davidson Museum

Built on the banks of the Monomonee River, the building was designed by the prestigious architectural studio Pentagram. The team led by James Bieber developed an overwhelming industrial style complex, which required an investment of $75 million: an impressive construction that includes exhibition halls, event rooms, restaurants, commercial premises and ample outdoor spaces.

Harley-Davidson Museum

One of the most photographed points of the complex is the replica of the humble shed where the company started in 1903, a 10-by-15-foot wooden workshop where William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson built their first motorcycle by hand. It was the Harley-Davidson Serial Number One, a motorized bicycle designed by William S. Harley himself. They would be joined by William and Walter Davidson, founding the small but powerful Harley-Davidson Motor Company, name that they signed by hand in the precarious door of the original workshop.

Harley-Davidson Museum
Harley-Davidson Museum.

Protected by glass, the brand’s first motorcycle is the starting point of the fascinating journey that describes the evolution of the industry and the last 100 years in the United States.

Another popular exhibition for visitors is the room called Experience Room, a large space full of motorcycles surrounded by giant screens that simulate the experience of driving a Harley. Competition bikes, military motorcycles, the classic Fat Boy and even an old scooter are just some of the options available.

Harley-Davidson Museum

For experts, the customized Gas Tanks rooms and the Motors Room are simply fascinating as people can see the mythical two-cylinder engine in V that Harley-Davidson introduced around 1909—a mechanical symbol that continues to represent the brand until now.

Harley Davidson Museum
The Experience Room.

Seasonal exhibitions and outdoor events are an important part of theHarley-Davidson Museum activities. For example, every Thursday, the complex celebrates the Night of the motorcycles or Bike Night. Motorcyclists and curious people congregate in the parks of the museum to enjoy live music, special activities and good food.

Tradition and the community of workers and riders are fundamental to the legendary motorcycle manufacturer. In fact, to date, the brand is still run by direct descendants of the four young men who founded it more than 115 years ago. This feeling of community and belonging is probably the foundation of the Harley museum. ■

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