In 1956, President Eisenhower signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act, providing for the construction of 41,000 miles of interstate highways that would span the nation. Often heralded as the world’s largest public-works program, this highway system would allow for safe transcontinental travel for American citizens, and aid in business development and economic prosperity of the country.
In 2014, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) gifted materials from its Interstate Highway System Research Project to the George Mason University Libraries. These materials capture the vivid memories of more than 100 men who worked to design and build our nation’s first highway system more than five decades ago. The collection of oral histories includes both audiotapes and transcriptions of interviews collected by the Association from 1988-1990.
With increasing focus on America’s aging transportation infrastructure, this collection holds particular importance to researchers and our nation’s leaders who hope to glean lessons from the past of the transformational impact that public works projects, such as the interstate highway system, can have on modern America. This collection joins several other of the University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives’ notable holdings that focus on transportation and planning in communities throughout the nation.
AASHTO is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing highway and transportation departments in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Representing all five transportation modes—air, highways, public transportation, rail, and water—AASHTO’s primary goal is to foster the development, operation, and maintenance of an integrated national transportation system.
The University Libraries’ goal is to preserve our rich collection of unique, historical reference for researchers and laypersons. We are committed to digitizing our special collections and archives, allowing the originals to be preserved, and making electronic access widely available, whenever possible. Digitization of collections will protect our history of more than 10,000 rare books, and 600 archives and manuscript collections to ensure it is available to future generations and to individuals across the globe.
Specifically for the AASHTO Highway System Research Project oral history collection, there are more than 166 audiotapes that need to be digitized to ensure the historical information is available to future generations. These tapes are a deteriorating, obsolete format that may only have one more “play” in them. After digitizing the collection, the University Libraries would like to create an online research portal for broader access to this historical information. Total cost to digitize the collection and create the portal is $25,000.
GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES:
At the heart of the academic and research enterprise at George Mason University is a robust library system that has transformed itself to an environment with unprecedented digital access to library and research materials around the world. Since its founding, the University Libraries has risen in stature as one of the leading academic research libraries in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This strong reputation is proving essential to the university’s ability to attract capable students ready to succeed, and recruit top-tier faculty who kindle the sparks of discovery and innovation that have become hallmarks of George Mason University.
Comprised of four unique locations, the University Libraries serve the academic and research needs of its undergraduate students, graduate researchers and renowned faculty through well-curated resources. Our growing collections include 1.5 million volumes, 1.2 million e-books, 133,000 e-journals, more than 10,000 rare books, 600 archive and manuscript collections, and extensive online resources that are accessed nine times every single second by virtual visitors from the Mason community and around the world.
Contact Jennifer Wilder at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information