Project: Local History & New Residents in Kirkland Washington

Background: As part of my Master’s program I am required to complete a course on instruction. My quarter long project for this course is to create a teaching or training module with the subject and population of my choice.

Subject: I chose for this project to focus on a local history program for new residents to a community. As a new resident myself I have found reorienting myself to my new community’s local history very hard. Diving into detailed history monographs or approaching a historical society without any basic knowledge of the community’s history can be a very intimidating. I am hoping by reaching out to new residents who were interested in their previous home’s history would become interested in their new home’s as well. I also hope this will increase new residents participation in local history societies as well.

Process: I hope to develop a history lecture module or series of modules that introduce local history to new residents by a new resident. One of the reasons I believe that new residents don’t connect with their new community’s local history is connected with the lack of personal connection they feel to their new place in the world. A national survey in 1994 spearheaded by Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen looked into how Americans interact with the past. The book, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life,  breaks down the findings of the survey (an awesome book for anyone interested in local history and why normal people suddenly become history fanatics after school). In it the authors state that “Almost every American deeply engages the past, and the past that engages them most deeply is that of their family” (22). So by removing these people from their hometowns which most likely has some sort of family tie, these new residents are removed from the most compelling source of historical interest. What historical societies in these new communities need to do is replace this familial interest with a new personal connection.

I hope to provide this new connection in my modules. Hopefully by introducing new residents to different local history topics, a personal connection can be made. This can be a topic with as simple a connection as the history of the neighborhood the resident is now living or a more complex social issue such as the history of transit in the area.

Outcome: I hope to help grow the interest of local history in a very booming population in my new community. This will help grow interest in the local historical society which would call for more organization in their holdings leading to such projects as an online database. This growth will lead to a much richer historical environment for the whole community and also a much more inviting one.

I hope to keep you all updated on my project and what sort of feedback I get back from my community. As of right now I hope to partner with the Kirkland Heritage Society and the King County Library to spread the message to the community. I have also been very inspired by Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and their Nearby History program (which might be where new residents end up if they become interested in detailed research).

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