The Baltimore Museum of Industry has launched a new initiative to collect materials related to the Francis Scott Key Bridge’s significance in Baltimore, from its history and workers to the recent collapse and subsequent recovery.

Anita Kassof, the museum’s executive director, said the project aims to tell the human stories behind the local landmark. Following the March 26 tragedy, creating an initiative focused on the bridge and Port of Baltimore was a natural choice, she said.

“The museum is all about emphasizing the dignity in all work and honoring that,” Kassof said. “So, internally as a staff, it resonated right away.”

The BMI is collecting a wide range of items for donation — including, but not limited to, tools, clothes, personal items, photographs, videos, flyers, pamphlets, membership cards and more. As of Tuesday morning, it had not yet received any items.

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The first goal of the initiative is to preserve the materials and make them available to researchers, she said. Some donations will be included in the permanent collections of the museum — which is located on Key Highway, and was founded in 1977 — as well.

Kassof hopes that the collection effort will eventually lead to longer-term projects.

Down the line, she envisions a museum exhibition about the Port of Baltimore and new curriculum for local middle and high school students that exposes them to the port and the jobs that animate it. If funding becomes available, she’d love to complement the exhibition with an oral history.

“So we can capture and preserve the stories — not just the material record — of people’s experiences,” she said.

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In particular, the BMI is seeking materials and anecdotes from immigrant and working-class communities that contributed to the bridge’s construction and operation, along with first responders and others who helped with recovery efforts.

Kassof said there’s an appetite for these kinds of stories. She’s already heard from community members who see the preservation effort as an opportunity to more accurately tell the stories of marginalized Baltimoreans.

“That’s a very important part of the story: giving voice to people whose work often goes unacknowledged,” Kassof said.

Those interested in donating should visit the museum’s donation page. Paper materials can be digitized into the BMI’s digital collections and returned to donors, along with copies of the digital files.

Wesley Case writes The Scan, The Baltimore Banner’s weekday morning newsletter.

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