My collaborator Sarah and I arrive early at the Public Records Office in North Melbourne. No pens allowed, no water, no bags, put everything in the lockers over there, security tells us firmly. We are here to examine state records about the West Gate Bridge, which partially collapsed during construction in 1970, killing 35 workers.
Materials are wheeled to us on trolleys. Sarah, with the speed of a seasoned historian, is quickly into the first of transcript volumes from the royal commission. I start by looking at body cards. The size of two palms, folded over, they systematically record who the deceased person was, and parts of their final journey—the doctor who pronounced them dead, the police officer who ferried the body to the coroner, the relative or friend who came to identify them, and the funeral parlour that took them away.
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