Behind the Wheel: Educating Through the National Corvette Museum

by | Mar 2024

THE CHEVROLET Corvette isn’t just a car; it’s a love story. One that has evolved over the last 70 years, fueled by passion, speed, and an indelible connection to this iconic sports car. Since its debut in 1953, the Corvette has captured hearts across the nation, becoming a symbol of American ingenuity and freedom.

Celebrating this bond year-round for the last 30 years is the National Corvette Museum. Built in 1994 and opened to the public in September of that year, the museum is located near General Motors’ Bowling Green Assembly Plant, where Corvettes are manufactured.

Since day one, the museum has proudly showcased the iconic and internationally recognized sports car along with educating its visitors from around the world on “the evolution of the Corvette – America’s Sports Car – through collection, preservation, and celebration of its legacy,” according to the museum’s website. 

Mariah Hughes serves as the media relations and marketing production manager for the National Corvette Museum. A Kentucky native, she grew up understanding the love the community has for the Corvette. 

“I visited it several times on field trips and events that were held in our event spaces,” she said. 

Hughes has a special history with the museum. She began working for the museum as a student at Western Kentucky University (WKU). Starting as an admissions associate and tour guide, Hughes joined the museum’s marketing department, where she would quickly learn the ropes. Following graduating from WKU in 2019, she joined full time in marketing and is now celebrating her sixth year with the museum. 

“The museum is truly one of a kind, and there is no other museum in the country dedicated to a single model of vehicle,” explained Hughes. 

“You have the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles, Henry Ford Museum in Detroit — but none of those are dedicated to a true individual model. Whereas the National Corvette Museum is dedicated to educating worldwide audiences on ‘America’s Sports Car,’ which is the Corvette. It is a one-of-a-kind institution.” 

The museum’s website states that it offers visitors “captivating exhibits, immersive experiences, Corvette manufacturing plant tours, and unique offerings that engage visitors of all ages and backgrounds in the history of Corvette.” 

“One of our strategic objectives is to be a cherished community asset,” explained Hughes. “One way that we do that is through our different education initiatives. Most recently, in 2023, we opened the McMichael Family Education Gallery, which is a space for even the youngest Corvette enthusiast, or someone who just likes to get out there and explore and learn more — to someone who may be really invested in the Corvette and want to learn more about it.”

Hughes added that the 2500-square-foot education space showcases STREAM education: science, technology, robotics, engineering, art, and mathematics. 

“We have drawing tablets for visitors to draw their own Corvette and take inspiration from aquatic life as well as fighter jets to design their own Corvette,” said Hughes. “So, we’re not only fostering the next generation of Corvette enthusiasts, but we’re also hoping to inspire the next generation of Corvette owners, engineers, designers, builders, marketers, and more.” 

In 2024, the museum will unveil a new exhibition, “LUSTER: Realism and Hyperrealism in Contemporary Automobile and Motorcycle Painting.” The traveling museum exhibition is comprised of over 55 paintings by 15 realists and hyperrealists who specialize in automobiles and motorcycles as their primary subjects. 

“This showcase of high-end art is the first ever in the museum. Whether you are an art lover or automotive lover, from not just cars but even motorcycles, this is an exhibit that you will not want to miss,” enthused Hughes. 

She added that exhibitions are just one of the many things visitors can enjoy in 2024. She and the dedicated crew at the museum welcome people of all ages and backgrounds to come out and fall in love with the Corvette for the first time or all over again. 

“We always say that people come for the car, but they stay for the people and the friendships that are made at the museum and across the country,” expressed Hughes. “We are one big happy family, and the one thing that we have in common is the love and appreciation for ‘America’s Sports Car.’ 

Whether you’re a sports car [or] automotive fan, history lover, or someone who likes the work that goes into industry and engineering, the National Corvette Museum has something for everyone. We hope that when you leave here, you take away just a little bit of an appreciation for ‘America’s Sports Car’ and all the dedication that’s gone into it.” GN 

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