The challenges, pitfalls and pleasures of devoting museum exhibits to sensitive subjects in often highly politicized cultural environments became a staple of discussion in the literature of public history during the 1990s. Moving away from the more familiar ground of race, class, and gender to the terrain of technology, this essay discusses the politics of commemoration with reference to a massive engineering project of comparative youth. In 1997/98, the Smithsonian mounted a six-month exhibit to mark the twentieth anniversary of the completion of one of the most celebrated - and controversial - engineering projects in U.S. history. Stimulated by a visit to the pipeline exhibit, this essay examines its context, content, character, and reception. It also ponders some of the broader implications of commemorative acts that elevate contested items of material culture into seductive icons of heritage. How, when - and where - should we commemorate a technological `wonder' that, in 2001, is still far from obsolete, but is ultimately slated for removal at the end of its working days? Is a museum in fact the most effective place to remember a project of such grand scale that it prompted analogies with the transcontinental railroads, Panama Canal, and Great Wall of China?
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