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Design sketches for Route 66 neon signs rescued, preserved

Associated Press logo Associated Press 5/19/2017 By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press
In this Tuesday, May 9, 2017, photo University of New Mexico associate professor of sculpture Ellen Babcock holds one of the neon design sketches she found among old business files belonging to Zeon Signs in Albuquerque, N.M. The sketches include designs for some of the most memorable neon signs along historic Route 66 in Albuquerque and elsewhere. They are now preserved at the university's Center for Southwest Research. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan) © The Associated Press In this Tuesday, May 9, 2017, photo University of New Mexico associate professor of sculpture Ellen Babcock holds one of the neon design sketches she found among old business files belonging to Zeon Signs in Albuquerque, N.M. The sketches include designs for some of the most memorable neon signs along historic Route 66 in Albuquerque and elsewhere. They are now preserved at the university's Center for Southwest Research. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Hundreds of design sketches for some of Route 66's most memorable neon signs in New Mexico's largest city and other spots along the famous road have been preserved and are now part of a university's special collection .

This Thursday, May 11, 2017, photo shows one of the neon signs that has been refurbished along Route 66 in Albuquerque, N.M. University of New Mexico associate dean and architecture professor Mark Childs pointed to the detail of this motel sign as a classic example of the midcentury designs used by the sign makers and business owners to attract customers. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan) © The Associated Press This Thursday, May 11, 2017, photo shows one of the neon signs that has been refurbished along Route 66 in Albuquerque, N.M. University of New Mexico associate dean and architecture professor Mark Childs pointed to the detail of this motel sign as a classic example of the midcentury designs used by the sign makers and business owners to attract customers. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Two professors teamed up to rescue the colorful, hand-drawn midcentury designs from a cache of old business records at an Albuquerque sign-making shop after they were deemed a fire hazard.

In this Tuesday, May 9, 2017, photo University of New Mexico associate professor of sculpture Ellen Babcock examines one of the neon design sketches she found among old business files belonging to Zeon Signs in Albuquerque, N.M. The sketches include designs for some of the most memorable neon signs along historic Route 66 in Albuquerque and elsewhere. They are now preserved at the university's Center for Southwest Research. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan) © The Associated Press In this Tuesday, May 9, 2017, photo University of New Mexico associate professor of sculpture Ellen Babcock examines one of the neon design sketches she found among old business files belonging to Zeon Signs in Albuquerque, N.M. The sketches include designs for some of the most memorable neon signs along historic Route 66 in Albuquerque and elsewhere. They are now preserved at the university's Center for Southwest Research. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Mark Childs is an associate dean and professor at the University of New Mexico's school of architecture. He and associate sculpture professor Ellen Babcock turned the find into a book in 2016. New Mexico preservation officials honored the two last week for their work to salvage the historic drawings.

The professors say the designs marked the beginnings of what would become touchstones and mementos for travelers and people who lived along the highway.

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Follow Susan Montoya Bryan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/susanmbryanNM

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