Through a grant from National Geographic, I drove 3,000 miles around the middle of the United States during the summer of 2015. I sought to document the stories of the creators of unique museums and art environments–their motivations, their histories, and their outlooks on the future of their creations. These individuals built museums, assembled collections, and installed grand works of art for reasons that vary from the spiritual to the entrepreneurial, and, as a result, have brought their towns new narratives and new business.
Their work has redefined their lives and come to represent a nostalgic landscape of roadside America, forming a body of attractions similar only in the sense of wonder that they evoke. These sites are extraordinary, commanding passing travelers to stop and experience something they’ve never seen before. Many are free to see and experience–a phenomenon unheard of in most of the country’s tourist destinations–simply existing because someone felt the need to build something new.
Pieces of the interviews can be heard here.