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February 19, 2008

I-35W Bridge Mile Marker Sign

Filed under: What's New — Matt Anderson @ 12:42 pm

Mile marker sign from I-35W bridge

The Minnesota Historical Society’s primary collecting mission is to document people and events from the past. It is rare for us to collect present-day items because, without the benefit of hindsight, it is difficult to identify significant objects and events. The collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge across the Mississippi River on August 1, 2007, was an important exception.

In the days after the disaster, MHS curators discussed how best to document it in the Society’s collection. Steel bridge girders are impressive, but they are difficult to move, exhibit and store, so we opted instead for smaller pieces. Road signs seemed an obvious choice, and a sign clearly connected to the bridge would be better still. The Minnesota Department of Transportation recommended a mile marker sign, and in October the Society took possession of the sign for mile 18.4, which stood on the northbound lane at the time of the collapse.

From a curator’s perspective, the sign is an ideal artifact from the tragedy. It is quickly recognizable to viewers, is branded with the I-35W identification shield, and is directly connected to the bridge (the I-35W bridge stood between miles 18.3 and 18.7).  The sign is just one of several pieces the Society has collected from this event, but it will remain one of the most poignent.

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

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