If I was invited to the historic meeting of historians, I think I would've had something to say.
And, this is it: we do need a lot of things in terms of communicating and preserving our history here. And, a museum would do a lot of things. But, I'm not sure it's the biggest problem we have. Or, rather, the idea with the most potential.
There are at least two other things that I think should enter the discussion at the same level. 1) A new library in Olympia and 2) much more dedication and funds towards bringing public what historic resources are available.
Mostly my concern for a new library is sharpened by my experience on the Timberland Library board (which operates the current Olympia library as part of a five county system). Our library was out-dated as soon as it was built in the late 1970s. And, since then we've only had one serious try at replacing it.
I love the idea of museums, but there is no reason at all a museum (and archive for that matter) couldn't be part of a new, larger Olympia library.
That said, buildings are buildings and knowledge is knowledge. If I had $1 million to spend on Olympia history today, my first stop would be expanding electronic resources available to people who write about history.
Most notably, I'd spend whatever I'd have to of that $1 million to cracking open the Olympian archives (and whatever other newspapers have been digitized) for public use. Most publicly available newspaper archives drop dead after 1922 (after which copyrights can be enforced). But, it is possible for libraries to open up newspaper archives to their patrons.
The Seattle Public Library was able to do this with the Seattle Times archive a few years back. And, at least to me, that one resource has been invaluable. Applying what are usually hard to access newspaper to word searchable archives in incredibly useful. The bias of an individual newspaper notwithstanding, a daily ticktock of the activities of a community, searchable via computer? Now, that would open history to a community.
Then build me a new library. Then build me a museum (if you couldn't fold it into the library).
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