Redesigning the Harley-Davidson Museum Design Lab

Feb 24, 2016

This has been a big few months for museum upgrades around the city.  The Milwaukee Art Museum unveiled its new wing and revamped space last November, followed soon thereafter by the restored Streets of Old Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Kristen Jones takes a look around the redesigned Design Lab.
Credit Mitch Teich

But most recently, the Harley-Davidson Museum put the finishing touches on a redesign… to the museum’s Design Lab.  It opened to the public not long ago, along with a new exhibit of prints from one of flat-track racing’s most well-known photographers, Dave Hoenig.

While the bikes take literal center stage in the lab, the people behind them represent the backbone of the exhibit, says Kirsten Jones, director of exhibits and curatorial at the museum.

"We talk a lot about the backstory," she says.  "These motorcycles as machines were very successful but they would not have been successful with the people who were behind those machines."

Visitors to the Design Lab can see racing bikes from a variety of eras.  Some in the pristine condition they were in as they rolled off the assembly line, while others have been restored after racing on dirt or asphalt.

While exploring the gallery Jones says the lab isn't just for the Harley fanatics, its for the those who can enjoy the art of design.

"I think people who may not be necessarily interested in the mechanics of how these machines work can appreciate their beauty," she says.