The CARC Gallery at UNM showcases technology-based artistic works and interdisciplinary research in science, engineering, biomedicine, humanities, and the arts.
Unknown Route 66
A visual narrative of Central Avenue
By Donatella Davanzo
Gallery at UNM Center for Advanced Research Computing
There are few American roads as alluring as Route 66. Starting in Chicago and covering a total of 2,448 miles, the Mother Road stretches through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before coming to an end at the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California. The road has inspired songs and TV shows, and the iconic stretch has fascinated millions of people from all over the world, including Italian-American anthropologist Donatella Davanzo.
Donatella first drove Route 66 from Chicago to California in 2006. As a photographer and anthropologist, the history and landscape intrigued her because of the conjunction of culture and architecture that create a sense of place, especially in the Southwest where three different cultures – Spanish, Native American, and Anglo - coexist.
Donatella started taking photos of the famous highway in 2013 when she was selected by the University of New Mexico’s Center for Southwest Research to do a photographic survey of Route 66 in Albuquerque.
From 2013 to 2015 Donatella walked the road from one end of the city to the other, Tramway to the Route 66 Casino, and from Fourth Street to Isleta Boulevard, capturing places most people didn’t even know was part of Route 66. She took pictures of every structure and features along the way. The photographs allow the viewers to see not only the buildings, but the details and areas around them that, ironically, are rarely seen as people drive past quickly.
A selection of the photographs is now on display in the gallery at the UNM Center for Advanced Computing, which is housed in the former Galles Motor Company along Central Avenue.A collection of 1,362 selected images is available to view online at the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections section of the UNM website.
The pictures were not taken with artistic intent, Donatella explained. Rather they are a snapshot in time of a fast disappearing piece of American history for future researchers, architects, anthropologists, and historians to study. For example, one well-known building she photographed, the Octopus Car Wash, has been recently razed.
“It’s no more. It’s history,” she said sadly. At least one other building along the route is due to be demolished to make way for a parking lot.
Why are people fascinated by Route 66?
“It’s not a road. For many travelers, Route 66 is a destination. People want to explore it as a personal journey, and to touch American culture.”
Center for Advanced Research Computing
1601 Central Ave. NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106