Our first project with this all-volunteer museum was to launch the StEPs program designed by the American Association for State and Local History. This framework of museum best practices gave the museum the confidence to undertake its first new exhibit in over a decade on the I-35W bridge collapse. We also developed a new Interpretive Plan for this museum, which helped to re-focus the board’s attention on the importance of updating their exhibits and better serving their existing audience.

As part of our research for the exhibit, we had the honor of being the first historians to interview 16 different firefighters who were involved that day. These oral histories became the foundation of our exhibit. The exhibit “81 Minutes: After the Bridge Collapsed” was installed in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the collapse, and brought together the stories of rescuers, the civilians who collaborated with
them, and those stranded who needed help. The exhibit had a profound impact on many visitors – firefighters who had not talked about their experience, victims who were grateful to see the larger story of collapse, and citizens throughout the metro area who were affected by the collapse. In September 2013, the exhibit was acknowledged with an Award of Merit by the American Association for State and
Local History.