Last Thursday we visited the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee to see the Indiana Jones exhibit (for coverage on that exhibit see my post about it). We were surprised at how much we enjoyed the museum, considering we are not motorcycle enthusiasts. The museum has a huge collection of motorcycles and other Harley-Davidson memorabilia, and the history of the company, which started in 1903, is extremely well laid out in beautiful displays. There’s a motorcycle gallery with bikes going back to 1903, an engine room with interactive exhibits showcasing engine mechanics, the design lab explaining the styling from logos to overall design, and much more.
The Harley-Davidson company has an incredible history. It was started in Milwaukee by four men in a small shed and grew exponentially since then. It reminded me of how Apple started in a garage. William Harley and Arthur Davidson made just 1 motorcycle in 1903, then another one in 1904, then 5 the following year, then 8, 50, 150, 450, and by 1920 they were making 26,500 motorcycles and 13,000 sidecars. You know that you have a successful brand when people proudly wear your logo on t-shirts and patches. I can’t think of many other brands, like Harley-Davidson, that have a similar appeal to people so that they’ll want to collect pins and wear it on apparel (Disney and Hard Rock Cafe come to mind).
Here are some pictures from our visit:
The museum was opened in July 2008 and is located near downtown Milwaukee. It is housed in three buildings: the museum, the archives and the third building has a restaurant, shop and conference center. The entrance fee is quite steep at $16 per adult.
At the back of the museum you can take the elevator to the third floor and have a peek inside the archives building. This is where they keep a copy of every model brought out since 1915. Over 450 motorcycles are stored here and you can see the archives staff at work doing their restoration work.
The Design Lab also had a welding robot that demonstrated its moves. It was very impressive the way the large machine moved around so swiftly.
For more about the Indiana Jones exhibit we visited see my post Indiana Jones Exhibit at Harley-Davidson Museum.