77 years ago today, after fewer than 5 months of use, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge dramatically collapsed into Puget Sound. At the time of its construction (and its destruction), the bridge was the third-longest suspension bridge in the world in terms of main span length, behind the Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge.
University of Washington Libraries is home to a trove of documents, films, and recordings that document the construction, collapse, and post-destruction investigation of the bridge.
The following CBS Radio News broadcast is from our Milo Ryan Phonoarchive. Three hours after the fall of the bridge on November 7, 1940, Carroll Foster and KIRO newsmen report from the scene and from a plane above the site. Included are interviews of Bob Owens (Washington Department of Highways), Charles E. Andrew (consulting engineer for the Washington State Toll Bridge Authority), and US Senator Homer T. Bone. Carroll Foster describes the scene from the vantage of a United Airlines plane, reporting via KIRO’s Mobile Shortwave Transmitter. Firsthand accounts describe a man (later identified as UW Prof. Farquharson) crawling from his car immediately before the collapse and the death of a dog that was trapped in one of the cars (later identified as Prof. Farquharson’s dog).
The following film documents the construction of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, its opening to traffic on July 1, 1940, its collapse on November 7, 1940, and footage of testing on a scale model of the bridge. The bridge experienced oscillations both while under construction and after opening, and in May of 1940 the Washington Toll Bridge Authority hired Professor Farquharson to make wind-tunnel tests and recommend solutions in order to reduce the oscillations of the bridge. The recommendations were delivered days before the collapse, and Prof. Farquharson was on site at the East Tower taking photographs and motion pictures on the day of the collapse.
For more information about these and other Tacoma Narrows Bridge materials at the UW Libraries, please contact us.
This week Tyler and I are asking our Intro to DH Freshman Seminar students to review an article or project from Vectors with the concept of design in mind. We are doing the same.
Being the archival obsessive I am, I decided to look at Vector’s first edition from 2005, one focused around the concept of evidence (a core archival principle). I visited the table of contents and picked a project/article randomly: Virtual Vaudeville, by David Saltz. The editors’ introduction drew me in, so I clicked “Launch Project.” What I received was…
“Technological obsolescence and other factors” are enemies of the archive, and negate any ability for design (good or bad) to be realized. My work as an archivist is focussed on opposing the inevitable onslaught of technological obsolescence. Progress is slow, at times glacial. In a kind of oxymoronic loop, we attempt to combat technological obsolescence with other technologies that inevitably fall prey to their own set off preservation ills (DAT tapes and bit rot) or access impediments (looked for 3/4″ Umatic player lately, or how about a player for your Moving Image JPEG 2000 files?). And what of these “other factors” mentioned in the above error message? Are these rights and ownership related factors? If so, those challenges can kill any project, no matter how technologically sound.
While I’m disappointed by Virtual Vaudeville‘s totalizing virtuality, I feel some solace knowing that archival struggles permeate all realms, even (especially?) the cutting edge. I’m empathetic with what I’m sure are the creator’s and editors’ frustrations, and will use this as an example of challenges when I meet again with fellow members SCALAR’s Archive and Preservation Working Group.
archiving sounds, sounding archives – all posts my own