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Growing up in Washington’s Finest Dairyland

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For the Public | Comments Off on Growing up in Washington’s Finest Dairyland

Former state senator (1969-1980) Gary M. Odegaard stopped in at the Washington State Library last week to share a wealth of unique photographs from his family collection, as well as hours of great stories about growing up in the border town of Sumas, Washington. Deborah Morgan from the Sumas Library met with Odegaard while staff from our Washington Rural Heritage program worked to digitize his photos.

It was a fascinating day of learning about life in Whatcom County in the 1950s, from daily farm life in “Washington’s Finest Dairyland,” to living through major flood events, to the history of the Sumas Valley Grange.

Odegaard’s collection will soon appear alongside other material from the Sumas area digitized through a Washington Rural Heritage grant completed this year by the Sumas branch of Whatcom County Library System. View that collection here: http://sos.wa.gov/q/SumasHeritage

The State Library’s Washington Rural Heritage program is a collaborative digitization project partnering with almost 150 of our state’s libraries and museums. The project also provides access to the otherwise hidden or inaccessible family collections of almost 500 Washingtonians.

The Washington State Library will be working with more than one dozen organizations through the end of 2018 to bring more of our common heritage online. Read more about our recent grant awards here: https://www.sos.wa.gov/_assets/library/libraries/grants/2017_WRH_Awards.pdf

This funding is made possible by a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act. To learn more about participating in Washington Rural Heritage, please contact Evan Robb, Digital Repository Librarian, at (360) 704-5228, or evan.robb@sos.wa.gov.


Orcas Island – Researching Our History Workshop

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017 Posted in Digital Collections | Comments Off on Orcas Island – Researching Our History Workshop

On May 13, 2017, staff from the Orcas Island Historical Museum and the Orcas Island Public Library co-presented a session on conducting, and writing about, one’s historical and genealogical research using the various resources held by both organizations. Edrie Vinson from the Orcas Island Historical Museum plugged the Washington Rural Heritage program, by discussing the James T. Geoghegan Collection as a way one might illustrate family history in an online environment. 16 people were in attendance.

Presentation to Northeast Chapter of Washington Farm Forestry Association

Friday, March 24th, 2017 Posted in Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public | Comments Off on Presentation to Northeast Chapter of Washington Farm Forestry Association

On March 18, 2017, Sue Richart, digitization technician and officer at the Stevens County Historical Society, delivered a presentation to approximately 75 members of the Northeast chapter of the Washington Farm Forest Association. She introduced them to the historical resources in the Colville National Forest Collection and the Stevens County Heritage Collection. Attendees received Washington Rural Heritage bookmarks directing them to the online collection. According to Sue, folks commented that they very much enjoyed the presentation!

Tale of a torn wagon cover

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For the Public | Comments Off on Tale of a torn wagon cover

Steamboat_theCOLUMBIA Magazine contributor Lionel Youst recently contacted us to identify a ca. 1901-1905 photo of a covered wagon (at right). The wagon is depicted aboard the Columbia River steamboat Charles R. Spencer. This badly-faded albumen print is from the Stevenson Community Library’s Skamania County Heritage digital collection (click image to see full record). Despite the photo’s poor condition, Youst spotted something about the wagon’s canvas cover—a large tear. It made him recall a detail from the reminiscences of his grandfather. Here’s what he told us:

“My grandparents, Frank and Alice Youst sold their homestead in Woods County, Oklahoma Territory and headed toward Centralia, Washington on August 22, 1903. [Their family of five] stopped and worked the horses at railroad construction and mining jobs on the way out. The canvas sheet [on the family’s wagon] was badly torn when it tipped over trying to go around a slide on the road over the Rocky Mountains. Dad said it was too hard to sew, and it remained torn all the way out to Centralia. I think what we see on the left side bottom of the sheet is a tear—bigger than I thought it would be, but that could be it.”

SK0228-Edit-Grayscale With a bit of assistance from his friend Shirley Bridgham, Youst was able to tease a bit more detail out of the faded photo—click on the image at left to see a full-sized version of the optimized photo.

In addition to the tear, other details about the photo line up with Youst’s grandfather’s recollections.

“The last leg of the journey was from Tonopah, Nevada where Grandad was hauling ore. They came up through Eastern Oregon to Prineville and Madras, and on to The Dalles where they took passage on a steamboat with the three horses, the wagon, and the family, down through the Cascade Locks to Vancouver. They arrived in in Centralia, Washington on June 26, 1904, after 308 days on the road, a family of five living out of that wagon. They certainly boarded the steamboat at The Dalles on or about June 20, 1904—give or take two or three days.”

While we don’t have an exact date for the original photo, we do know that this photo was very likely taken at Cascade Locks (across the Columbia River from Stevenson), between 1901 and 1905, and that the Charles R. Spencer was one of the two steamboats running The Dalles to Portland/Vancouver route at that time.

So is it his grandparents’ wagon?  According to Youst: “If it isn’t…it’s close enough!” For a detailed account of Youst’s family’s journey, see his upcoming article in COLUMBIA: The Magazine of Northwest History.

Listen Up! Stories from the Northwest Corner

Monday, June 6th, 2016 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public | Comments Off on Listen Up! Stories from the Northwest Corner

ListenUpLogoThe National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016.  In honor of that centennial celebration, the Port Angeles Public Library—located right on the footsteps of Olympic National Park—recently interviewed a number of its patrons about their experiences visiting, living in, and working at national parks throughout the U.S.  These audio recordings are now accessible online at: http://sos.wa.gov/q/listenup.

We especially enjoyed ranger Dean Butterworth’s story of guiding troubled teens on a snowshoeing trip in Mount Rainier National Park: http://www.washingtonruralheritage.org/cdm/ref/collection/nols/id/4155.

This is the first of an ongoing series of oral histories projects planned by the Port Angeles Public Library. Their new program, Listen Up! Stories from the Northwest Corner will collect and archive a wide variety of stories from Clallam County residents. Inspired by StoryCorps, the interviews will be made available for listening through the North Olympic Heritage website—part of the Washington State Library’s Washington Rural Heritage program.

The North Olympic Library System is hosting a free listening party at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center on Tuesday, June 21, 7pm, at the Olympic National park Visitor Center, 3002 Mount Angeles Rd, Port Angeles. Stop by to hear locals recall their favorite National Park stories and memories!  And if you can’t make it, the recordings will also be available at the Visitor Center all summer long.

OCLC features Washington Rural Heritage maps and timelines

Friday, February 12th, 2016 Posted in Digital Collections, Uncategorized | Comments Off on OCLC features Washington Rural Heritage maps and timelines

The Washington Rural Heritage project was recently featured in a piece by OCLC—the company behind CONTENTdm.  The piece highlights our use of interactive maps, geo-referenced digital objects, and timelines, using free tools from Northwestern University’s Knight Labs. Read more here: http://www.oclc.org/en-US/news/announcements/2016/CONTENTdm-news-item-January-2016.html

New Deal-era Art Digitization at the Ellensburg Public Library

Thursday, February 11th, 2016 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public | Comments Off on New Deal-era Art Digitization at the Ellensburg Public Library

Washington Rural Heritage staff hit the road recently to help the Ellensburg Public Library digitize unique works by New Deal-era artist Ernest R. Norling.

Known most widely for his important 1939 book on drawing, “Perspective Made Easy,” Norling also made a significant contribution to documenting Washington’s industry and history in the wake of the Great Depression. His murals depicting early pioneers, agricultural workers, Northwest logging crews, or CCC men at work, grace a great many public and private schools, buildings, and businesses throughout Washington. [Read an oral history interview with Norling by the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art here].

2016-01_ellensburgPL1_blogTo digitize oversize works like Norling’s, Washington State Library staff set up a mobile studio of sorts in the Ellensburg Public Library’s archives and local history collections space (the Library stores and preserves works owned by the City of Ellensburg and the Ellensburg Art Commission). We used a field camera along with a large format lens and digital “scan back,” tethered to a laptop, as shown in the photo at left. The result is a high-resolution, reproduction-quality image of Norling’s painting. It will be digitally preserved by the Washington State Library, and a lower-resolution “access” copy will be made viewable to the general public. The digital photography equipment used for this project has also been used extensively to digitize three-dimensional art work, as well as objects and artifacts held by cultural organizations throughout the state.

Norling’s work, along with a large portion of the City of Ellensburg’s art collection, will appear online this spring, as part of the larger Ellensburg Heritage Collection. Staff at the Ellensburg Public Library are performing the bulk of art digitization and description on their own, with a 2015-2016 Washington Rural Heritage grant.

Washington Rural Heritage is a statewide digitization program, serving Washington’s public and tribal libraries as well as their institutional partners (museums, historical societies, etc.). Library Services and Technology Act funding for the program comes from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. A new Washington Rural Heritage competitive grant opportunity will be available for libraries by early March. Those with questions or project proposal ideas are encouraged to contact Evan Robb, Digital Repository Librarian, at 360-704-5228, or evan.robb@sos.wa.gov.

A Century of Stewardship — the Nesset Family Farm Collection

Thursday, December 31st, 2015 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public | Comments Off on A Century of Stewardship — the Nesset Family Farm Collection

aliceNessetThe Washington Rural Heritage Program is pleased to announce a new digital collection from the Deming Library (Whatcom County Library System). The Nesset Family Farm Collection tells the story of a Norwegian immigrant homesteaders who settled on the South Fork Nooksack River in 1902, and for decades worked tirelessly to coax a living from the land, raise five children, and run a small dairy. In the meantime, they documented the many pleasures of settler life in the South Fork, including hiking and skiing on Mount Baker, and fishing on the Nooksack River.

The collection, along with an interactive timeline, can be viewed at: http://www.washingtonruralheritage.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/mtbaker

The Nesset homestead is no longer a working farm, but the land and many of its historical buildings have been preserved by successive generations of Nessets as well as the Nesset Farm Trust. Today, the farm is considered one of the best remaining examples of an intact agricultural homestead in Western Washington. Many of the original buildings, including the farmhouse and barn, are being renovated as of this writing (2015) and will be open to the public when Whatcom County’s newly established South Fork Park is completed.

Tom_Nesset_in_cedar_dugout_canoe_South_Fork_Nooksack_River_circa_1920The Nesset Family Farm Collection is just one part of the Deming Library’s Mount Baker Foothills Collection—a locally-managed digital initiative which promises to bring together a wealth of unique historical materials and make them freely available online.

Digitization in 2014-2015 was accomplished with a grant award from the Washington State Library, funded by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Washington public and tribal libraries will be eligible for our next round of digitization grants to be announced in early 2016. Questions about the grant opportunity should be directed to Evan Robb, Digital Repository Librarian, evan.robb@sos.wa.gov, (360) 704-5228.

Washington Rural Heritage Volunteer Recognized for Excellence

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections | Comments Off on Washington Rural Heritage Volunteer Recognized for Excellence


Wanda Alderman (right), standing with Whitman County Library’s Patti Cammack.

Wanda Alderman, Friend and volunteer for Whitman County Library recently received an Outstanding Volunteer Award from The Washington State Genealogical Society recognizing her efforts to preserve important historic images and records for a number of agencies and projects including Washington Rural Heritage, the State Library’s  local history digitization program.

Volunteering for the library for nearly 7 years, Wanda has been the public face of the local project, tracking down hidden collections, interviewing contributors, documenting critical cataloging information, and providing community programs. Thanks in large part to Wanda’s efforts, Whitman County’s Rural Heritage collection contains nearly 4000 images and averages 4000 site visits per month.

Additionally, Wanda has volunteered for Find a Grave for 14 years, served as Bethel Cemetery secretary/treasurer for 10 years, transcribes records for Washington State Digital Archives, donates time and resources to the St. John Historical Society, and keeps scrapbooks for her alma mater Steptoe school.

Wanda is shown here, with Whitman County Library’s Rural Heritage project manager, Patti Cammack at a public program and open house this July promoting the digital collection. These two are truly leaders in the community digitization field, having digitized materials from more than a dozen partner institutions in Eastern Washington and more than 100 previously inaccessible family collections.  Thank you Wanda and Patti for championing our common heritage!

New Digital Collection: Medical Lake Heritage

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections | Comments Off on New Digital Collection: Medical Lake Heritage

Large format photography, Medical Lake Library, 2015. Scanning a men's wool bathing suit.A new digital collection from our Washington Rural Heritage program tells the story of Medical Lake—the inland Northwest’s first destination resort and spa community.  This collection of historical documents, photos, and cultural objects was digitized in 2014-2015 by the Medical Lake Library (Spokane County Library District) in partnership with the Medical Lake Historical Society.

Located 15 miles southwest of Spokane, Washington, Medical Lake was once lauded for its curative properties. The lake’s mineral waters were said to provide a cure for everything from “rheumatism” to “kidney complaints” to “skin diseases.” In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a bustling enterprise developed around the lake. Visitors came from far and wide, and an electric train connected the town to Spokane for a period. Medical Lake boasted several hotels, lakeside resorts, and a sanitarium that pumped lake water directly into its baths. In addition, the lake’s minerals were extracted and sold throughout the United States in the form of salts, tablets, soap, an ointment, and even a porous plaster. The water itself was bottled for export.

While the lake’s heyday was relatively brief, it helped firmly establish the town of Medical Lake, and its legacy and local historical interest endures.

Learn more about the history of Medical Lake at HistoryLink: Medical Lake: The Inland Empire’s First Spa.

Highlights from the collectionblog_boom include:

  • The Story of Medical Lake, a 1972 souvenir edition of the Cheney Free Press celebrating 100 years of Medical Lake history. This special edition constitutes an excellent local history of the area, providing profiles of early citizens, businesses, organizations, and community events.
  • Early newspapers from Medical Lake, including the Medical Lake Ledger and Medical Lake Enterprise.
  • Objects and artifacts from the Medical Lake Historical Society, including products incorporating mineral salts and extracts.

Congratulations to the Spokane County Library District for making this unique collection widely accessible for researchers, students, and the general public!

imls-logo-2c.jpgWashington Rural Heritage is supported with Library Services and Technology Act funding provided by the federal Institute for Museum and Library Services. To learn more about participating in Washington Rural Heritage, contact Evan Robb, Digital Repository Librarian at evan.robb@sos.wa.gov.