Re-presenting “Responding to AIDS: The Seattle-King County Department of Public Health 1982-1996”

In 2016, the King County Archives produced an oral history project and online exhibit documenting Seattle-King County Department of Public Health’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in King County. The exhibit was published on its own website. Over the summer, to make the exhibit easier to manage in the long-term and easier to connect back to our collections, archives staff migrated the content of the exhibit to a page on the archives website. Below, read a question and answer style blog with Assistant Archivists Jen Peters and Emily Cabaniss about why archives have exhibits, what archives and archives exhibits can teach us about our communities, and how archives can be used to illuminate and connect the past, present, and the future.

Visit the exhibit online here.

What was Responding to AIDS about?

Jen: The exhibit was about the Seattle-King County’s Public Health Department response to the burgeoning HIV/AIDS epidemic and its impact on the county throughout the 1980s – mid1990s. The exhibit focuses on the challenges and perspectives of the Public Health staff.

Emily: The exhibit was part of a project to collect oral histories from public health department employees during the HIV/AIDS epidemic about their memories and experiences of combatting the epidemic. The oral histories have their own page in the online exhibit, and audio clips from them are inserted throughout the online exhibit.

Why are you migrating the exhibit to the archives’ website?

Jen: We wanted to have a little more control over our projects that have been developed over time. Plus, maintaining the existence of this exhibit is important as it provides additional access to these collection materials. And, we’re happy to make a new home for it through our main Archives website.

I didn’t know archives created exhibits! What’s with that?

Jen: The Archives does occasionally create exhibits using materials we have in our collections. Because we don’t necessarily have a physical space that is accessible to everyone outside of business hours, the Archives has focused on creating space online to showcase collection materials for browsing and research. Ideally, those interested in material seen through the exhibits can find additional resources in our database. Some materials are already digitized and available, while requests can be made to access items that aren’t already online.

Emily: One of the most important things is providing access to our records, but if people don’t know they exist, they don’t know to ask for it in the first place. Exhibits are a way to highlight the breadth and potential of research in our archives.

Why is it important to keep this exhibit online?

Jen: Between the oral histories gathered in development and support of the exhibit and the records of the AIDS Prevention Project, it is vital to maintain this cohesive resource for public access. Our collection does reflect additional material that goes beyond the date range of the exhibition, and this exhibit exists as an invite for those to inquire further or learn more for the very first time. Many of the resources, including the exhibit itself, are continuously called upon or referred to for more information about the region’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Requests and questions about the migration have been coming in, so we are excited to get it back online!

What does it take to move this exhibit to the archives’ main website? Did you have to learn anything new?

Jen: To migrate this site and all its resources, we’ve been using our main website infrastructure to build out a new home for the exhibit. Our website relies on using a content management system that I had not used before, so I participated in a bit of training on utilizing the system. After that, I’ve been calling on my beginner skills working with HTML to hit the ground running and begin migrating the website along with Emily.

Did you learn anything new about the subject of the exhibit—Seattle’s HIV epidemic—that you didn’t know before?

Jen: For me, I’ve learned quite a bit about Public Health’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the area. Being a little kid at the time, I didn’t have much knowledge of what everything meant to me and certainly not others who were experiencing the epidemic directly. Going through materials about a more localized response has helped me begin to fill in many gaps of information I’ve gathered over my lifetime about the national response. The exhibit itself does not comprise all the materials we have in the collection, so, I anticipate that I will continue to learn more from these collection materials.

Emily: I did not know how hard our Public Health Department worked, and how many avenues they used to educate people. The interviews with employees reflect compassion and a conscientious building of trust between people being affected by HIV/AIDS and Public Health, and those were not entirely separate groups. The concept of harm reduction in public health was a notion I had taken for granted, but these interviews demonstrated how groundbreaking that framework was for thinking about public health.

Has anything you’ve learned, discovered, or thought about while migrating this exhibit changed the way you will work as an archivist going forward?

Jen: Yes, it certainly has affected my approach. Specifically, I’m interested in how we interact with information online and how we improve access in general. I’ve been thinking about how I access and consume information online and how that might compare with friends, colleagues, and the general public. Working on migrating this exhibit has made me think about how we can use our web content management system to improve our main website to better respond to users needs for locating information about the Archives, the collection, and so on. So, I’ve been thinking more about how we use images, videos, text, and links to not only describe an exhibit but also to better describe how a user might search for recorded documents or other unrecorded or archival material. For example, where can we use less text in favor of a short video or series of images explaining a how-to of searching for documents while also keeping in mind that not everyone reads, hears, or sees in the same way. So, where can we enhance image, URL descriptions, and/or document descriptions to get the right information across? I am also exploring how I can provide more access to our collection material, especially if it’s remained relatively static in its access to internal and external researchers.

Emily: I knew this, or would have agreed with it if someone had told me, but this project really drove home for me that the past is not long past. The connection of these files from public health with the past employees’ oral histories conducted just a few years ago in living color reminds us that the effects and ramifications of events in history last much, much longer than the stage where you’re thinking about the event every day, or actively responding to it. And that thought the people involved move on, they don’t necessarily disappear. As an archivist, when I describe and arrange records, I would like to make choices that I would feel comfortable making if the subject of the records was staring over my shoulder—because they could be. 

What’s the most interesting thing in the collections that were used in building this exhibit?

Jen: The sheer amount of posters, flyers, and other graphics kept over that time has been one of the most interesting things to view in the collection. And to know that what makes up the exhibit is only a fraction of the related materials in the Archive. Honestly, the breadth of the collection as a whole is truly fascinating. Because of this project, I’ve been searching through a lot more scanned material than exists on the site. As it stands, the exhibit has given me an opportunity to see this common thread of information describing the HIV/AIDS response. I feel lucky because I’ve been able to take a few more steps into parts of this exhibit that I didn’t realize were here. I’d been walking past these boxes almost every day. So, to see so much of it out in front of you, even digitally, is amazing. I can only imagine what it was like to locate these items in their boxes and get them all set for scanning.

Emily: My favorite documents are the Stella comics, which are featured in the exhibit, but honestly the oral histories are really compelling, and I would take the time to watch all of them if I were you, a reader and fan of archives.

Women in Government through the King County Archives

A little background: The King County Commissioners was the legislative body of the county government prior to the establishment of the King County Home Charter and the swearing in of the first King County Council in 1969. The Commissioners were three elected officials who functioned much like the County Council does today. Their records can be found at the King County Archives and accessed on microfilm in the self-service microfilm area.

In 1931 and 1933, the King County Commissioners introduced resolutions for King County to no longer employ women. Instead, they would fill open positions with married men, or women when they were heads of families. These resolutions were introduced to stem the economic hardships of the Great Depression’s mass unemployment. The second of these resolutions calls for King County staff to investigate whether they are employing any married women and replace them if their husbands are “able to support them.” That is to say, to fire married women for being married women.

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50 Years of Home Rule Governance: The Archives Celebrates the King County Charter and the First Council

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Fifty years ago today, the first King County Council and County Executive were sworn in under the Home Rule Charter. The current Council is celebrating the golden anniversary at today’s meeting with historic images from the Archives collection. Below: read the Charter and follow along with the first swearing-in ceremony on May 1, 1969, through the transcript and photographs taken on that day.

The Home Rule Charter

“A home rule charter for King County by the Board of King County Freeholders,” 1969, Series 872: Documents Collection, box 30, document 480, King County Archives

May 1, 1969: The Swearing-In Ceremony

Hon. Story Birdseye (center, with hand raised), Presiding Judge of King County Superior Court, swears in John O’Brien (left), Chairman (Dist. 5), on May 1, 1969, at the King County Courthouse. Also pictured facing the camera, left to right: Ed Munro (Dist. 7), Dave Mooney (Dist. 9), and Bernice Stern (Dist. 5).

Series 400: Department of Transportation Road Services Division Photograph and Moving Image Files, box 52, file 917, King County Archives

Proceedings

Official proceedings of the swearing-in of the first King County Council and County Executive, May 1, 1969. Series 134: County Council Proceedings, box 1, folder 1, King County Archives

Transcript

Transcript of the swearing-in of the first King County Council and County Executive, May 1, 1969. Series 134: County Council Proceedings, box 1, folder 1, King County Archives

Portraits: John D. Spellman

County Executive John D. Spellman, 1978
Series 1591: Clerk of the Council Public Relations Materials, box 11, folder 10, King County Archives

Portraits: First County Council

Official councilmember portraits, 1970. Series 705: County Council Photographs, folder 1, King County Archives

Scenes from the late 1980s: Looking back at the construction of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel

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On March 23, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) will convert to Link light rail trains only, and bus service will be moved to surface streets. At the Archives, we’re reminiscing over these photographs of its construction, showing a glimpse of 1980s Seattle and the people who built the tunnel.

The photos below come from Series 1844: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel project files and Series 1147: Office of Information Resource Management Printing and Graphic Arts photographs. Ask an archivist if you have any questions about any of these photographs or the other transit-related records held at the King County Archives.

Pre-Construction Survey

As construction began, Metro staff took photographs of the interior and exterior of buildings along the tunnel’s route, ostensibly to document the current condition of the structures.

Documenting Construction

During construction, thousands of photographs were taken, in a variety of formats, to document the complex work required to dig the tunnel and prepare it for service. The photographs below are from the project files and were taken by Ray Halvorson, Ed Hunter, Norm Nelson, Vic Oblas, Keith Nordlund, and Merdad Shahverdi.

Station Construction (1987)

The following photographs were taken by Norm Nelson and Vic Oblas.

Station Construction: International District (1988-1989)

Station Construction: Pioneer Square Station (1988-1989)

Station Construction: Various (1989)

Station Construction: University Street Station (1990)

The photographs below are from Printing and Graphic Arts. Photographers include Ned Ahrens, Tim Healy, and Barton L. Attebery.

Tunnel Construction

Station Construction

The people who built the tunnel

Tunnel Stations

DSTT Events

As we say bon voyage to the buses leaving the tunnel, contact the Archives for more information about the photographs above, to make an appointment to see more, or to ask an archivist about anything else related to King County history!

Digitization and description of photographs: Amanda Demeter and Danielle Coyle

Text and arrangement: Jill Anderson

We’re baaack: Bytes and Boxes’ zombie-like return

Followers may have noticed that Bytes and Boxes “went underground” over the past several months, as an unearthly volume of reference requests has consumed, and continues to consume, the time of your loyal King County Archives staff.

But although we’ve been less than substantial in the social media dimension, rest assured we are actively “undertaking” what archivists love most—providing access to historical records. And, as new accessions continue to come through the door to be incorporated into the collection, and as our clients bring ever-new research challenges, we are discovering treasures and encountering stories at every turn, gathering ideas and materials for upcoming Bytes and Boxes posts.

Who can say what the future will bring?

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Above: Fortune teller at King County Employee Association event, circa 1960.  Accession A07-013, Box 2, King County Archives.

It’s Archives Month!

For now, we celebrate October, which is Archives Month, with two public events.

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Faces of the Archives

On Tuesday, October 9, from 11am to 3pm, we will be participating in a genealogical research event at the Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library, where local museums, archives, and libraries, along with the Seattle Genealogical Society, will share with the public how each unique collection can contribute to researching individuals. Visitors can explore how people are directly and indirectly documented, using any of 27 trading cards created for the event.  The cards describe people from many walks of life and local history.  A card from the King County Archives collection is shown below:

 

The main event will begin at noon, when historian Paula Becker will talk about her use of local repositories to research her biography of Betty MacDonald, iconic Northwest author of The Egg and I.  

 

Archives Road Show 2018

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The very next day (Wednesday, October 10), we will again take the Archives’ show on the road to share with King County staff, and anyone else who wanders in, cool things from the Archives!  We’ll be in the King County Chinook Building, at 401 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle, from 9am to 4pm. Picture yourself in the past by taking selfies in our Archives photo booth, check out our exhibits, get your nerd on by marveling over legacy recording media, and take five and enjoy some historical video and film from the collection!

We hope folks will attend these fantastic Archives Month events. We’re “dying” to see you!

 

Randy Revelle’s service to King County

In recognition of Randy Revelle, King County’s third county executive, who passed away last week.

King County Executive Randy Revelle, 1983. Series 415, Department of Transportation photograph files, item 415-1-20-5. King County Archives.

Randy Revelle led King County’s executive branch from 1981 through 1985.

Significant accomplishments of Revelle’s administration included completion of the county’s 1985 Comprehensive Plan, which guided development to balance growth with protection of the environment, rural areas, and quality of life; implementation of the first phases of King County’s farmland preservation program; creation of the Cougar Mountain Wilderness Park; and improved programs for women- and minority-owned businesses. Revelle is also credited for leadership in improvements to mental health care at Harborview Hospital.

Having himself been treated for bipolar disorder, Revelle would move on from local government leadership to become a leader in health care policy and advocacy, emphasizing mental health services.

Seattle Mayor Charles Royer and King County Executive Randy Revelle declaring Public Works Week [1982 or 1983]. Also pictured: Public Works director Donald LaBelle. Series 489, Public Works Department Office of the Director – subject and complaint files, item 489.1.5.1. King County Archives.

Records of Executive Leadership

The records of Revelle’s administration are available for public viewing by appointment at the King County Archives. Archival processing of these records was completed in 2016 by Assistant Archivist Rebecca Pixler (now retired) with support from Archives volunteers and interns.

The collection came to the Archives in 1998 as part of a transfer of 297 cubic feet of County Executive records representing the administrations of Randy Revelle, Tim Hill, and Gary Locke.

Descriptions of Revelle’s records in the Archives are linked to below:


For more information on Randy Revelle, see:

historylink.org entry, Revelle, Randall “Randy” (b. 1941)

King County Executive Dow Constantine’s statement on Ravelle’s passing

Seattle Times obituary

Secondary Value: Using Road Construction Records for Genealogy

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Detail from survey, map no. 101-5.B, showing Fall City in 1913

 

In an earlier blog post, we talked about the secondary research value of aerial photographs. Secondary value is research that can be done in records that is different from the purposes for which the records were originally created.

In addition to aerial photographs, another good source of secondary research value are the historical records of the King County Road Services Division. These records were originally created to document road construction or maintenance, but can also provide a wealth of information about historical structures, property ownership, or geographic or environmental conditions.

The bulk of these documents are available online, in the Road Services Division’s Map Vault, an online repository of nearly 200,000 plans, drawings, surveys, and aerial photographs. Secondary uses of these records include:

    • Providing contextual detail to basic genealogical facts,

 

  • Researching historical land or vegetation conditions, or
  • Tracking the development of the built environment.

This post will examine how to locate evidence about an ancestor in road project records and what these records can show.searchfields

Secondary Use Example: Genealogy

Road surveys and road establishment files (also called Road History Packets) can be rich sources of land ownership information, if your ancestor owned land in a part of King County which was unincorporated at the time and if county forces did construction or maintenance work nearby.

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Title block from the bottom left corner of the Issaquah-Fall City survey map, containing information that can be used to locate it in the Map Vault

 

In April 1914, as part of a bond issue to reduce steep grades on county highways, county surveyors created this 3′ x 11.5′ map, showing the alignment of Issaquah-Fall City Rd. (Today the route shown in this survey follows part of Interstate 90 until turning north and following Preston Fall City Rd SE.)

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“Survey No. 1137, Issaquah Fall City,” map no. 102-10.A, 1914

 

Part of determining the route of the road required documenting who owned property along the route and thus would be affected by construction – how access and travel would be improved or hindered, what right-of-way would need to be acquired, or what structures or other property might be taken down or relocate to accommodate the road.

In this survey, just south of Fall City and a cemetery owned by the International Order of Odd Fellows, is the property of William Wallace Pulver. Censuses and vital records indicate that Pulver was born in May 1839 to Harvey and Providence (or Prudence) Pulver, probably in Ontario, Canada. Sometime in the 1890s, he moved to western Washington, and began to purchase land in and around Fall City. In the detail below, the alignment of the road runs right through this part of Pulver’s land, where he had apple trees, a water closet, patches of raspberries and currants, and fencing around his property.

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Detail from “Survey No. 1137,” map no. 102-10.A, 1914

 

This survey map also points to a book of survey field notes, discovered in the notation next to the intersection between the right-of-way and Pulver’s fence: “Fence Post Vol. 352 ‘A’ pg. 13.” That survey field book is also in the Map Vault and provides more detailed notes about the survey around Pulver’s garden. Knowing that William Pulver had a flushing toilet, a garden, and potentially an orchard not only gives us a glimpse of life in the early years of the county, but sheds light on Pulver’s occupation and economic status.

That’s great, but how do I find my ancestors in these records anyway?

In the 1800s and early 1900s, King County roads requested by citizens were initially named after the main petitioner. Thus, Seattle founding father David Swinson “Doc” Maynard shows up in the Map Vault as a petitioner of at least two roads and can be searched for by entering his last name into the “Project/map name” field.

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An example using a surname

 

Clicking the link for the second result to download the Road History Packet for D. S. Maynard Road No. 2 provides not only Maynard’s original signature but also the reports to the King County Commissioners, written by Maynard himself as foreman of the crew surveying the route.

This search by surname only works for the main petitioner – in this case, David “Doc” Maynard. Often the property owner petitioning for the road would recruit his or her neighbors to support the petition; these additional signatories are not indexed, unfortunately. However, this means that searching by the name of a known neighbor may yield documents that also mention the ancestor. Look in late 19th- or early 20th-century censuses for the people that lived nearby and search by their surnames as well.

The Map Vault is also searchable by location (section, township, and range) or by road name, so determining the location of an ancestor’s land through other records may also provide information that can be used to search the Vault.

The King County Road Services Division Map Vault is located at http://www.kingcounty.gov/mapvault, and the Road Services Division Map and Records Center can answer questions about how to use the Map Vault (email them at map.roads@kingcounty.gov). The original road history packets and many other historical roads records have been transferred to the King County Archives. Contact us at archives@kingcounty.gov.

Meet the Archives

Those of us in the archives profession are often surprised (shocked!) to discover that there are people in the world who don’t know what an archives is or what archivists do.

So, to help demystify archives in general, and to let everyone see what a friendly and approachable bunch we really are, in this post we share a series of brief interviews with us, the staff of the King County Archives.

And now, we invite you to meet the Archives team…in alphabetical order!

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Jill Anderson, Assistant Archivist

What do you do at the Archives?
Much of my time is spent on reference and facilitating the work of the reference team. I create web and social media content, and I research and design exhibits. I process, describe, and scan records for public access, and I coordinate volunteer projects.

How long have you been with the King County Archives, and what did you do before joining the Archives?
I’ve been with the Archives for just over two years. Before I joined the Archives, I was at King County Road Services in a hybrid records management/archives position. Prior to joining King County, I worked at the Densho history project, Yellowstone National Park, and the National Archives and Records Administration in Seattle.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the Archives collection?
One of my favorite series is Series 1067, the timber cruise reports, which were originally created for the narrow purpose of documenting timber growth, its value, and the resources needed to extract it, but in the process, the cruisers also reported settlement and the built environment in the early days of King County. The reports show early roads, railroad lines, the buildings that made up town centers, and the structures residents erected on their property. Geographic information, like topography and historical river courses, also make these a really fantastic series.

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What is something you have enjoyed at the Archives?
This summer, we participated for the second time in 206 Zulu’s Boogie Up the Block street arts event, where we had a booth, set up exhibits, and spoke with residents while artists covered the outside of our building in murals. One of the most memorable conversations I had was with a man who lived a block away, who had been unaware of the Archives or what services we provide. He told me about his teenaged son and the resources that were available (and not available) to his son at school, and I talked about our collections and what kind of research his son could do. It emphasized for me how much time and dedication outreach requires, even for people who live practically next door to an archival facility.

Agnes Castronuevo, Archives Reference Specialist / Administrative Specialist

What do you do at the Archives?
I’m one of two reference specialists at the Archives. I help the public access information and records, in large part property and legal documents that were recorded with King County, but also related records such as historical maps and land use files.

How long have you been with the King County Archives, and what did you do before joining the Archives?
I came to the King County Archives in May 2017. Prior to returning to King County, I served with various agencies throughout the Western United States as an anthropologist and archaeologist: Zone Archaeologist and Tribal Liaison, Inyo National Forest; the first appointed Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw; Cultural Heritage Director, Burns Paiute Tribe; Supervisory archaeologist for Terracon Consultants and Adapt Engineering.

As an archaeologist, I conducted and supervised fieldwork which included pedestrian surveys, archaeological testing of soils, and other archaeological excavation projects, as well as developing historical and environmental contexts for preparation of professional reports submitted to the State Historical Preservation Officer describing my archaeological findings and effects determinations. One of the most interesting projects I have been involved in was the Camp Castaway Field School during which, a team of archaeologists, students, and members of three Native American tribes on the Oregon coast worked together to find the previously unknown location of a shipwreck in 1855, which became a turning point in the history of Euro-American settlement of the Coos Bay area.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
I don’t know the collections well enough yet, but if I were to have a favorite, it likely would be anything documenting the history of the communities east of Lake Washington, including early Native American history of the Snoqualmie and Sammamish people.

What’s something you like about working at the Archives?
I think that each and every day, arriving at the Archives and doing my best to serve the people of King County gives me a great deal of job satisfaction. Each person I meet has a unique story to share, and I take pride in my ability to listen empathetically, and assisting them with finding the documents and recordings they seek from the Archives. After all, the constituents of King County are part of the Archives story, and in turn we have the opportunity to become part of their stories.

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Danielle Coyle, Archives Administrative Specialist

What do you do at the Archives?
I’m administrative support for the rest of the King County Archives staff. I make sure the records vault and self-service research area are organized and clean. I also assist with processing and indexing materials for the Archives. I’m happy to pitch in whenever some help is needed, whether it’s scanning records for a reference request or purchasing needed supplies.

How long have you been with the King County Archives, and what did you do before joining the Archives?
I’ve been with the Archives just over eight months. Previously, I’ve worked as a textbook sales associate with the University Book Store and have interned with historical and cultural institutions such as the Museum of History and Industry and the Center for Wooden Boats, supporting collections work and outreach programming. I also currently work part-time as circulation staff with the Seattle Public Library.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
I really like the Parks Department photograph files. As someone who’s not a Seattle native, they’re a really interesting slice of life and everyday history of the region.

Girls’ Pigtail Days, Hamlin Park (Shoreline); circa 1950-1959. Series 467, Park System Photograph Files, King County Archives.

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Idylwood Beach [Gateway] Park (Redmond); circa 1971-1982. Series 467, Park System Photograph Files, King County Archives.

What’s something you’ve enjoyed since you’ve been with KCA?
Bringing an open house out the Chinook Building. It was great to meet some other King County employees and generate some interest in the work we do here.

Amanda Demeter, Assistant Archivist

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What do you do at the Archives?
My role is a mix of public service assisting clients with reference requests, archival processing, and description to make sure our collections are easy to find and use, and outreach. Currently I’m learning as much as I can about county government, operations, and history as well as our different collections and research tools in order to help serve our users.

How long have you been with the King County Archives, and what did you do before joining the Archives?
I started just two months ago, in late December 2017, but I’m looking forward to much longer. Prior to joining King County, I was an archivist at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. I’ve worked primarily in academic and museum archives and special collections libraries, performing a range of duties including reference service, archival processing and preservation, and outreach. Some of my most memorable archives experiences relate to my short-term work as an archivist for a local museum in Nome, Alaska. I participated in a number of outreach events to a community that is very engaged in its history, including speaking to the Rotary Club, presenting to a city committee, and telling junior high students why archives are cool. Climbing into a B-17 aircraft for a reference request at the Museum of Flight was pretty memorable too!

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the Archives collection?
Having only seen a fraction of the collection so far, I’m sure my favorites will continue to change, but one is the 1853 marriage certificate of Louisa Boren and David Denny, the first marriage recorded by King County government.
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Marriage Certificate of David Denny and Louisa Boren, January 23, 1853, Series 95, King County Superior Court Clerk record of marriage certificates, King County Archives.

What is something you have enjoyed at the Archives?
What really stands out to me is how essential our work is here at the Archives. While I love helping people with historical research and I believe that scholarly work is also deeply important, many of the records we provide for people here are necessary for their daily lives – to support their family relationships, to maintain their homes, to be aware of and active in their local government. I’m really proud to be surrounded by colleagues who are conscious of their responsibility to the public and dedicated to making records as accessible as possible.

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Greg Lange, Archives Reference Specialist / Administrative Specialist

What do you do at the Archives?
My main responsibility is to respond to queries for government documents or information. I provide assistance to members of the public to obtain requested documents or refer them to the agency that will likely have the information they are seeking. Most document requests to the Archives are for recorded real property records which is what I spend most of my time on.

How long have you been with the King County Archives, and what did you do before joining the Archives?
I am a life-long resident of Seattle and vicinity. For a number of years I worked in new, used and antiquarian bookstores, all of which had significant sections on local and northwest history. I changed careers and brought my local history interest to the Washington State Archives Puget Sound Regional Branch where I remained for fourteen years. PSRA has has local government agency records from King, Kitsap, and Pierce counties. I’ve been a staff member at the King County Archives since 2012.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
My favorite King County Archives records are the 1907 Timber Cruise volumes which include detailed maps covering one square mile sections. In addition to forest coverage, the maps and supplemental information document skid roads, rail lines, public right of ways, farms (often including information on crops, orchards, and livestock), mines, etc. These records are especially valuable documenting early settlement and development of east King County. These records were recently scanned and are available online.

Another favorite are the Commissioners’ Road Books, created from the 1850s through 1900. The map volumes provide information on early settlement patterns, and associated volumes of road survey field notes provide details on the natural environment along the route.
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Plat of Salmon Bay Road, Road Book 4, Series 320, Commissioners’ Road Books, King County Archives.

What’s something you enjoy about the Archives?
I enjoy responding to the wide variety of queries the Archives receives and figuring out and suggesting the most efficient way to research the query and locate documents.

Karisa O’Hara, Archives Technical Specialist / Administrative Specialist

What do you do at the Archives?
I process incoming accessions, fill orders for marriage certificates that come in through the Washington State Digital Archives, do the daily deposit and accounting, and help anywhere else I am needed.

How long have you been with the Archives, and what kind of work did you do before joining the Archives?
I have been at the Archives for 13 years. Previously I worked for King County Elections in the Absentee department.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
The photographs. I love finding random things, like a series of about 20 photos, all showing a man in a yellow car.

[Photos of man in a yellow car, circa 1973-1985] Series 1150, Photographic slides, Office of Information Resource Management: Service Development / Printing and Graphic Arts, King County Archives.

What is something you enjoy at the Archives?
I enjoy creating custom housing for records that don’t fit into standard containers or that need special storage.

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Rebecca Pixler, Assistant Archivist (Retired)

[Editor’s note: This interview was conducted just before Rebecca retired in December after 19 years of public service with the King County Archives. Her contributions to the Archives continue to benefit King County and will do so far into the future!]

What do you do at the Archives?
As an assistant archivist, major professional-level responsibilities include: preserving historical records of King County government, organizing and describing them for researcher access; helping customers find topical information or specific documents; preparing Web content to showcase specific collections; and participating in professional-level staff discussions regarding the archival program. — From April 1999 to November 2000 I also served as Acting County Archivist.

How long have you been with the Archives, and what kind of work did you do before joining the Archives?
I began working at the King County Archives on March 1, 1999. With two brief exceptions early in my career when I was an equal opportunity investigator for the State of Alaska, I have worked in libraries, record centers and archives since 1967 (professional level since 1978). Before coming to King County, I held several positions as a library/records coordinator at, or associated with, the University of Washington.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
Series 474 (Engineer bridge file photographs) evocatively documents a rural King County that doesn’t exist so much anymore. Many images are well-composed and visually very attractive. I arranged and described the series, using our existing (c.2004) technology to capture as many access points as I could (this has been carried over through two subsequent collection databases). Later, I suggested a subset of the photographs to a colleague as a Web exhibit; this was developed and can be seen here: The Bridges of King County.

What is something memorable about your work at the Archives?
I’d overseen processing of some Public Health HIV-AIDS program files in 2001-2002. Related graphical materials followed in 2010. Later, County Archivist Carol Shenk thought they’d make a wonderful Web exhibit…and let’s add some oral histories too! At that very moment a talented volunteer walked in the door! She helped us write a successful 4Culture grant and I recruited some friends to do the oral history interviewing. I worked with the talented volunteer to process the 2010 records, write the exhibit text and select images. Carol coordinated the oral histories and did all the hard technical Web work! All the collaboration paid off when the Archives won a heritage award for the exhibit in 2017. I’m proud of this project because, by showing off Public Health’s work, it filled a real gap in the historical record about how the AIDS crisis was handled locally.

Carol Shenk, County Archivist

Carol_2017_cropped

What do you do at the Archives?
I oversee operations of the Archives. This includes records intake and processing, selection and design of electronic systems, collection care, reference services, and monitoring the archives facility. I appraise the historical value of County records for potential transfer to the Archives, and I work closely with the Records Management Program in their mission to ensure that County records are effectively managed throughout the records lifecycle. I do a lot of other things, too, including responding to research requests and developing exhibits. But first and foremost my job is to support our excellent staff, volunteers, and interns. All this I do with the help of Archives staff, supporting agencies in King County, and our Section Manager Deborah Kennedy.

How long have you been with the Archives, and what kind of work did you do before joining the Archives?
I have been County Archivist since 2013. Prior to that I was Information Manager for the Seattle City Clerk and Municipal Archives. In previous positions I have served as records manager and public disclosure officer, deputy city clerk, cataloguer at Amazon, and adult literacy tutor.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
It is hard to choose. I love records that tell stories, like a Commissioners’ zoning file about a community’s objection to a proposed drive-in movie theater. This one-inch file inspired a blog post (see A Theater Near You).

Much of the collection documents how people have used and modified the land since the County’s beginnings in the 1850s. I find these records to be really interesting, as they reveal changing ways people interact with the natural world. The records of the Inter-County River Improvement Commission, which document how waterways in south King County were modified to manage flooding in the early 20th Century, are an example. Such environmental history records can have practical application in natural resources management today.

What is something you like about the Archives?
Again it is hard to choose. I appreciate the commitment among Archives staff to public service, and I enjoy learning from the records in our collection, which help tell the story of the region and its people. It’s exciting when the records help increase understanding and inform decisions today.

I enjoy how archival records document the history of the County’s many and varied departments and functions. They can show the evolution of philosophy and practices within different professions, which reflect the knowledge and culture of a given era.

I very much value our role supporting governmental transparency, and it’s rewarding that we get to share the collection with all kinds of people: engineers, historians, students, attorneys, artists, activists, and people from all walks of life needing to access public records to establish rights or conduct business.

Now that you know a little more about us, contact us with your questions about archives and King County! — The King County Archives Team

Remembering John D. Spellman

In memory of former Washington State Governor John D. Spellman, who passed away yesterday, the Archives shares a few photographs of his service as King County Executive from 1969-1981.

King County Executive Dow Constantine describes Spellman as having been an “amiable, humble man,” and these qualities come through in photos of his interactions with County employees and the public.

413-2-440_KingCountyFair_92.0.0252King County Fair, 1977.

 

413-2-455_ElectionCampaign1973_92.0.0258Election campaign, 1973.

 

413-2-250_ParkGrant1973_92-0-0018Grant for parks acquisition, 1973.

413-2-253_GlenEaglespeaker_Kainai_Drum_NW_Inter-Tribal_Club_1970_92.0.0021With Glen Eaglespeaker (Kainai), of the Northwest Inter-Tribal Club, circa 1970.

 
413-2-212_Students_InCouncilChambers_1971_92.0.0190With students in King County Council chambers, 1971.

 
413-2-279_AtKingdomeSite_1974_92.0.0050At future Kingdome site, 1974.

 
413-2-379_DedicationGreenRiverPumpPlant_1973_92.0.0155Dedication of the Green River Pump Plant, 1973.

 
413-2-384_SpellmanBar1973_92.0.0160Pouring a beer, circa 1973.

 

413-2-414_ArtsCommission1969_92.0.0219King County Arts Commission event, 1969.

413-2-419_Fishing1969_92.0.0224Fishing, circa 1969.

 

 

 

(Photos are from Series 413, County Executive John Spellman Photograph files, King County Archives.)

 

 

Visualizing King County: timber cruise reports from 1907-08

1067-16_TimberCruiseReports_23-5_003_LoRes_Cropped.jpg

New online! The King County Archives recently completed a project to image and rehouse 45 volumes of Assessor’s timber cruise reports dating from 1907-08. Valued by researchers for their detail and accuracy, the reports are a unique resource for this time period in King County. We are thrilled to make high-quality copies of these records easily accessible through our public search site.

Topography: natural and built

The imaged reports document natural topography like ridges, swamps, and waterways; vegetation and soil types; human impacts such as areas that have been burned or logged; and the built environment, including trails, houses, farms, roads, mines, mills, and railroads.

1067-107_TimberCruiseReports_20-11_061_HiRes_DetailMorgansMill

Map from report for Section 18, Township 20, Range 11E, showing burnt-off areas, mill-worker housing, the Northern Pacific Railroad line and Morgan’s Mill railroad spur, Friday Creek, and the Green River.

What was here?

In identifying structures and landmarks, the reports provide information about land use in early 20th Century King County. When conducting research for our own Bytes and Boxes post about the Lake Wilderness Lodge, we were delighted to find reference to a summer cottage in the vicinity of what was to become Gaffney’s Resort.

Who was here?

Many of the reports note the names of landowners—and even the names of tenants—occupying a plot of land, along with inventories of equipment, livestock, orchards and other property. These lists can tell us about individuals, and they can help us picture day-to-day life in rural King County in the early 20th Century. Some reports provide a record of communities and property of Native Americans and people of color.

Detail from report for Section 7, Township 22, Range 5E, listing property on surveyed section.

What’s a timber cruise?

King County conducted timber cruises from 1907 through 1967 to estimate the taxable value of forested land. In creating the 1907-08 reports, timber cruisers surveyed potential timberlands, mapping and describing natural topography, and they noted human-made features, landmarks, and significant property. The surveys were conducted and documented using the Public Land Survey System, a geographic reference system that is the basis for legal land descriptions still used today. The earliest timber cruise reports are of particular interest not only because of their vintage and content, but also because of their beauty.

 

Aesthetic quality

The maps are beautiful!
1067-56_TimberCruiseReports_20-7_010_HiRes_square

Map from report for Section 2, Township 20, Range 7E.

 

Imaging for access and preservation

While imaging and indexing projects are labor-intensive, providing high-quality digital copies of records online makes them widely accessible to historians, scientists, students, genealogists, and others interested in the history of our region’s natural environment, infrastructure, communities, and residents. Online access also serves to protect these unique records for posterity by minimizing the need to physically handle the original paper volumes.

 

Historic preservation

The King County Historic Preservation Program will be combining the timber cruise map data with other GIS data developed as part of a three-phase Cultural Resources Protection Project, which focuses on improving archaeological resource protection in the County.

 

Zoom in!

The high-resolution scans provide such detail that one archivist claimed to have had an out-of-body experience when zooming in on a map. Our goal is to encourage use of these wonderful records, and the quality of the images will enable reproduction in online and print publications.

Detail from map from report for Section 4, Township 22, Range 5E.

 

Thanks to…

Scanning was made possible by support from King County’s Archaeological Mitigation Grant Fund.

The Archives would like to thank volunteer Julia Alforde for the many hours she spent reformatting images and completing data entry to enable online access to the scanned records. Thanks also to conservator Lisa Duncan Goedeke and her intern Jenessa Lingard, who carefully rehoused the original timber cruise volumes into custom archival boxes after they were scanned.

 

Accessing the reports by geographic location

Note: This section has been updated to correct the coverage map found below and in the instructions in PDF format, March 12, 2019.

 

Following are instructions for retrieving a timber cruise report for a given location. Click on the below images to enlarge, or
download instructions in PDF format
.

 

The reports cover most King County townships that were relatively undeveloped at the time of the survey, shown below. Not every section within each given township was surveyed.

1907-1908TimberCruiseCoverage_new

 

Use King County iMap to identify the Section, Township, and Range of the area of interest.

KC_iMap_SectionExample

 

Use the Township and Range information to locate the correct timber cruise volume by searching on the Archives search site.

KCA_SearchScreen

 

Navigate within the volume on the Archives search site to locate an individual section map, or download the entire report to view all maps and textual matter for the township.

TimberCruiseRecordDetail