Saturday, April 16th, was an absolutely beautiful day at the historic Schmidt House in Tumwater, a perfect day for the third biannual gathering of people from around Thurston County with a passion for local history. The “Heritage Builders” local history program of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation hosted this unique Local Historian’s Conference from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., organized and facilitated by Public History Manager, Don Trosper. The host group also included Curator Karen Johnson, Archivist Erin Whitesel-Jones, and later joined by the executive director of the foundation, John Freedman.
As John was giving his greetings to the assembled attendees, he was surprised by an unexpected presentation from the president of the South Sound Heritage Association, Drew Crooks.
Drew leads the regional organizations of museums and history organizations known as SSHA, and he presented their “2016 Heritage Award” to John for his vision and direction on behalf of the board of directors in re-energizing and re-branding the local history program which has not only benefited the City of Tumwater and the foundation, but has also brought together historians, museums and local history groups for these intimate conferences that inform and encourage them in their projects and goals and helping to create a climate of cooperation and collaboration among the historic community. Each of these biannual meetings are limited to 20 invited members, more than half of them first-time attendees. The forum is not a time for big presentations and displays, but rather a time to share each person’s love for local history, their passions, projects and goals.
The gathering this time not only included people representing Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Thurston County, but also had people representing St. Martins University, East Olympia, South Union Grange, Tenino, maritime history, and a new living history museum that focuses on restored historic equipment and vehicles. This conference featured local history authors, living history that reaches out to our youth, and Dick Pust sharing stories from local radio KGY. There was discussion about the old brewhouse in Tumwater, cooperation among local museums and history groups, virtual and mobile history programs, and the rich archives collections at St. Martins, the City of Tumwater, and the Olympia Brewery and the Schmidt family.
Don Trosper, the master of ceremonies, said, “This may have been our best conference yet. Many in the group were meeting in person for the first time and before long it felt like a big family gathering. It was great fun and very encouraging, even to the point where we all spontaneously sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to one of the members of the group.”
The next conference will be hosted in September and the roster is filled with both first-timers and return delegates.
by Don Trosper