Highway 89 Digital Collections

THE HIGHWAY 89 DIGITAL COLLECTIONS PROJECT

The history of the American West is shaped and defined as much by its people as it is its landscapes. Nowhere is this more clear than in the winding path taken by Highway 89. On its 1,252-mile route from Mexico to Canada, Highway 89 passes through or adjacent to seven national parks, showcasing some of the most spectacular scenery in the American West.

Such distinctive landscapes make for a powerful history worth preserving and sharing. With this thought in mind, the Utah State Archives is proud to announce our participation with other cultural heritage organizations across Utah and northern Arizona to launch the Highway 89 Digital Collections Project.

Promotional artwork for the Highway 89 Digital Collections project created by John Clark.

The mission of the Highway 89 Digital Collections Project is to bring together the unique resources each member institution holds that help illuminate the history and stories of life lived along Highway 89. Digital items that have been uploaded to the site so far include photographs, postcards, and textual records.

Drawing on the latest in online exhibition technology, the Highway 89 Digital Collections website pulls together materials from a number of archival repositories and special collections including:

EXHIBITS

Exhibit pages on the Highway 89 Digital Collections website allow archivists and curators to draw on their skill and expertise in piecing together dynamic stories that illustrate the history of the road.

Image of a road sign on Highway 89 in Garfield County.

Two such exhibits from that Utah State Archives are currently accessible on the Highway 89 Digital Collections site. The first exhibit gathers together photographs that were taken by the Utah Department of Highways as part of a statewide inventory of road signs between 1965 and 1975. These simple plywood creations offer up a rich visual history of what travelers of that era would have seen as they made their way along Highway 89.

Ruins of a schoolhouse in Thistle.

A second exhibit features materials from the Utah State Archives that tell the story of the 1983 mudslide near the town of Thistle which flooded a section of the highway, destroyed the town, and created an earthen dam that fundamentally changed the landscape in Spanish Fork Canyon. For this exhibit, items from the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) were identified and digitized. They provide a monthly account of work done by state and federal workers to divert water from Thistle Lake, reroute important railroad lines, and physically move the section of Highway 89 that spurs off at the Thistle junction as it makes its way south towards the Sanpete Valley.

Future contributions from the Utah State Archives to the Highway 89 Digital Collections project will focus more on textual records created by various agents of Utah State government who have played important roles in making decisions that have impacted the growth and evolution of Highway 89. As we continue to add miles of digital content to the route, we will look forward to seeing you along the digital Highway 89!