The “Long Way Home” exhibition commemorates the founder of the Lankton Museum

CLINTON – To commemorate the life of the founder of the Museum of Russian Icons, Gordon Lankton, the exhibition “The Long Way Home: A Photographic Journey” is being relaunched. Showcasing more than 40 photographs taken by Lankton on a life-changing motorcycle trip in 24 different countries in Europe and Asia in the mid-1950s, the exhibition will be on display from July 29 to October 3.

The show was originally presented in July 2020, when the museum reopened after the pandemic.

Gordon Lankton, Frankfurt, Germany, November 6, 1956, photographer unknown.  This is one of the images from

On November 6, 1956, armed with camera, maps, passport, C-Rations, budgeted at $ 5 per day ($ 3 in food, $ 1 for sleeping, $ 1 for gasoline and everything) and nothing else, Lankton, 25, left Frankfurt, Germany on an NSU motorcycle and began an adventure that would influence the path he would take for the next 50 years.

This trip from Germany to Japan prompted him to reflect on international relations and conceptualize the global business and museum he would one day build.

“In March, we lost our friend and founder Gordon B. Lankton, and we saw a surge of sympathy from around the world,” said Managing Director Kent Russell. “A shrewd collector and talented businessman, Gordon’s overflowing cultural curiosity, his sense of adventure, his social entrepreneurship and his generous spirit are at the heart of our institution. The Long Way Home exhibition is particularly suitable to commemorate his life; and its many local and global contributions. His example of a life well lived serves as an inspiration to many. “

From his early days as a penny-collecting scout until the founding of the Museum of Russian Icons in 2006 to house his extensive collection of sacred art, Lankton was an avid collector. From African sculptures to WWI and WWII posters to model cars, Lankton not only researched the objects, but also information about their origins and the artists who brought them to life. created.

His interest in icons, the iconic sacred art of Russian Orthodoxy, which stems from Byzantine tradition, was piqued in 1989 during a business trip to Russia, when he purchased an image of Saint Nicholas at an open-air market. After opening a branch of his plastics manufacturing company, Nypro, in Moscow, Gordon developed a continuing appreciation for the Russian people, cultural traditions and especially icons.

To continue its legacy, the museum established the Gordon B. Lankton Collections Fund. He will be a lasting testament to his love of art, his museum and his community and will ensure that his vision will continue to be shared by visitors from all walks of life and around the world.

The map of the story map 'The Long Way Home' on the Russian Icon Museum website when the exhibit was shown last year.

About the exhibition

In 1953, while studying engineering at Cornell University, a 22-year-old Lankton traveled to Japan on an exchange program to study Japan-US relations. . Lankton immersed himself in Japanese culture and ignited his curiosity, his passion, his imagination and his quest for knowledge. of the world. Eager to explore the world and understand his place in it, he began to thoroughly plan a trip around the world, but first had to fulfill his two-year military commitment.

Lankton has been pushing for his service to be ended in Europe. Deployed in Germany, he immersed himself in absorbing every detail of German culture, language and way of life.

An exhibition of

He began to wonder whether he should pursue a career in engineering or in the foreign service. He continued with plans for his trip, with an itinerary starting in Germany and ending in Japan and challenged himself to achieve two goals: to see the world; and visiting American embassies in every country he traveled to and talking to foreign service officers to see what their jobs involved and what kind of lives they led.

From traders, farmers, embassy workers, dignitaries and other travelers, Lankton has engaged with everyone he has met along the way. These experiences played a vital role in his journey and his future.

Lankton’s diary describes many difficult events. His passport and money were stolen in Burma; in Calcutta, he encountered complicated local government regulations and a complex Indian bureaucracy when he wanted to sell his motorcycle. He handled these situations by teaming up with sympathetic allies to help him overcome the challenges he encountered along the way, skills that have served him well throughout his career.

Stories of an American traveling on a motorcycle predated Lankton’s arrival in many countries. The villagers went out to observe him and admire his motorbike, an object of curiosity and admiration in many remote places.

Along the way, Lankton would find a bed and meals at the end of a day’s travel and stop when he was tired. He slept outside, in youth hostels, and occasionally received invitations from private individuals. He records his meetings, his experiences and his budgets in his journals.

Arriving in Calcutta, India, in March 1957, he was forced to sell the motorcycle, as the remaining voyage required a sea voyage. From that point on, trains, planes, trucks, boats and walking were the new agenda, which allowed even more interactions with the local population.

Passionate about the arts and concerned with quality, Lankton sought out “pure artists” from every country he visited. He often neglected the city‘s commercial stores and looked for studios and workshops where he could meet and talk with artists.

Throughout the trip, Lankton would buy art and mail it to his home in Peoria.

He had many conversations with artists and artisans. These encounters led Lankton to purchase works of art that had personal significance to him.

The journey ends

Lankton arrived in Tokyo, Japan on July 12, 1957. He was greeted by his friend Taizo, whom he knew from his previous trips to that country as a representative of the Cornell University student government.

The following weeks were spent in the hospitality of other friends as he rediscovered Japan. Some of them became trusted and loyal co-workers when Lankton established his plastics business over the next six decades.

On July 31, 1957, he boarded a plane in Tokyo bound for the United States. It would be the first time he had returned home in nearly three years.

In the 1960s, Lankton went to work as a plastic engineer at Nypro, an international injection-molded plastic company in Clinton, eventually becoming president. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, he visited a country he was unable to visit on his 1950s trip due to the Cold War: Russia.

He bought icons on these trips. His private collection grew rapidly, finally giving rise to the idea of ​​creating a museum. He chose Clinton for the location and the Museum of Russian Icons opened in October 2006.

In 2007, Lankton’s book, “The Long Way Home” came out, chronicling, in his photos and words, his journey of over 27,000 miles to 24 countries in 267 days.

Associated programming

Zoom Webinar: Exploring the Long Way Home Exhibition: Recorded webinar available on Russell, consultant Karen Lankton and exhibition curator Chris Stratford discuss the process of translating “The Long Way Home” from book to exhibition, including mapping of Lankton’s motorcycle trip and selection of photographs .

The museum is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $ 12 for adults, seniors (59 and over) $ 10, students $ 5, children (13-17) $ 5, children under 13 free.

Visit for more information on the museum and its collections.

About Elaine Morales

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