At AKCHO’s membership meeting on September 26, AKCHO members who had gathered at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, along with a few unsuspecting tourists, were treated to an opening concert by five singer-songwriters and their accompanying acts. The musicians were among those who are featured on the new “Making the Cut” CD produced by Maritime Folknet to commemorate the centennial of the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
In fact, the gist of the meeting was a review of the whole endeavor behind “Making the Cut,” a multi-year effort to commemorate the centennial, and explore the changes that that feat of engineering had wrought, for better and for worse. The two historians who sparked this whole effort, Susan Connole and Mikala Woodward, were on hand for AKCHO’s September meeting, as was Eric Taylor, former 4Culture Heritage lead, whose early support gave additional impetus to many of the individual projects within the overall scheme.
Woodward showed an engaging video of her “Drawing the Line” project that used field chalk to mark the former, higher shoreline of Lake Washington prior to the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
“Once you’ve torn a building down or washed away a hill, it’s really hard to even imagine what was there – and I feel like we humans do this periodically, and in this city we’ve done it a lot,” Woodward said.
For her project, Woodward brought together mapping data the from the Waterlines project, videography by Vaun Raymond and Simon Kidde, resources from several local archives, aerial video by Corvus Eye Productions, still photography by Lorn Fant, and a whole squad of volunteers and government agencies who assisted along the way.
This and many other videos that detail other facets of the history of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the development of Centennial activities can be found on the Making the Cut website.
Connole noted some of the additional activities and projects that sprang from Making the Cut: several new articles published on HistoryLink, as well as Waterway, a new book by David Williams and Jennifer Ott; a new 7th grade curriculum on the topic, produced by Eastside Heritage Center; several exhibits; the Lake Washington Ship Canal Centennial Boat Parade; and a model created by the Discovery Modelers Education Center of the historic S.S. Roosevelt, the ship that led that parade 100 years ago.
“It is an enormously generous community of people here in Seattle,” Connole said. “You just ask and people will come.”
Others who were important to the project, but who were unable to attend the September 27 meeting included Eleanor Boba, Jim Adams of Discover Your Northwest, and Brian Carter, current Heritage lead at 4Culture.
The meeting also included a presentation by 4Culture’s Heritage Support Specialist Chieko Phillips on a newly-released assessment of the heritage field from 4Culture’s Heritage department. The presentation of data was summed up in eight key findings:
1. Issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are not considered top priorities for the local field, but are increasingly important to the larger heritage community.
2. King County’s heritage field needs assistance improving its visibility to wider audiences. There is opportunity for 4Culture to provide more support specifically to marketing and/or PR efforts for individual heritage organizations and the field as a whole.
3. Financial stability is perceived by heritage organizations as their most pressing challenge.
4. The economic impact of King County’s heritage field is currently unknown. There is opportunity to better assess, track, and communicate the economic impact of King County’s heritage field.
5. The employment pipeline of staff and interns to King County’s heritage field is not functioning in a way that ensures longevity for its organizations.
6. Passive forms of audience evaluation are the most common form of audience research. Organizations use it to track exhib it and program attendance as well as membership. Most do not evaluate demographic information about their visitors.
7. Volunteers support nearly every organization in King County’s heritage field. Their continued recruitment, retention, training, and appropriate tracking is vital to the success of the field.
8. In the heritage field, there exists a need for: 1) trained collections staff/volunteers; and 2) capacity for existing staff/volunteers to undertake collections related duties.
The report includes a prefatory letter from 4Culture Heritage Lead Brian Carter. Borrowing a phrase from the late Dr. John Henrik Clarke, a pioneer in African-American studies, Carter notes that 4Culture will be using these survey results “to guide 4Culture, and the heritage field, as we continue to help people understand ‘where they still must go, and what they still must be,’ through exploration of our shared past.”