The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will be the new home of American author Robert M. Pirsig’s 1966 Honda Super Hawk featured in his book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values.” Pirsig’s book, originally published by William Morrow in 1974, has sold more than 5 million copies and has been translated into 27 languages. The inspiration for Zen stemmed from a month-long road trip Pirsig (1928–2017) took with his 11-year-old son Chris in 1968. As they rode the 5,700 miles from the Twin Cities of Minnesota to San Francisco and back, Pirsig became better acquainted with his son and himself.
Stored for decades in the family’s New England garage and recently mechanically restored, the motorcycle is a gift from Pirsig’s widow, Wendy K. Pirsig. The gift includes Pirsig’s leather jacket, maps, shop manual and other gear from the 1968 ride, together with his toolboxes, a manuscript copy and signed first edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The book kickstarted an international cultural movement to rethink how people interact with technology and find balance in life, as it tells a story about the relationship between people and machines that made Pirsig a pioneer in the human-technology interface and do-it-yourself maintenance and repair.
“Bob’s philosophy explored human values, and he aimed to show how quality is actually at the center of all existence,” Wendy Pirsig said. “It seems consistent with this focus on quality that his motorcycle collection joins the nation’s exemplary history museum at the Smithsonian.” The museum is located on Constitution Avenue N.W. between 12th and 14th streets in Washington, D.C., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information, visit americanhistory.si.edu.