Oral history project shares the rarely told tales

October 1, 2008

By David Hayes

Imagine if renowned film maker Ken Burns sat with select members of the Issaquah community, listened to tales rarely heard by those who didn’t live through those times and produced a documentary about the history of Issaquah. 

Well, imagine no more. Thanks to the Issaquah History Museums, the public can see these stories come to life with its Oral History Video Project.“I’m really excited,” said Museum Director Erica Maniez. “We captured stories never heard before or are not that common. It makes you realize the amazing people who have lived in Issaquah over the years.”

The Issaquah History Museums hosts the premiere of a dozen video shorts Oct. 11 at the Issaquah Train Depot. 

Maniez said this is the fruition of two years of effort to bring Issaquah citizen’s stories to television. It melds two projects the Historical Society did in the past — the History Book Project, where citizens’ written recollections were published online, and the historical shorts Maniez produced for the city’s cable channel, combining narration and historical photos and videos.

In 2006, the Issaquah History Museums launched a campaign to preserve the oral history of Issaquah. Funding from 4Culture, the Kiwanis Club of Issaquah and area donors, totaling close to $20,000, made it possible to hire professionals to conduct the interviews and transcribe them, Maniez said. Oral historian Maria McLeod interviewed 25 longtime residents of Issaquah. 

“The interviews are filled with amazing stories and deeply personal memories that inform and improve our perspective on the community’s history,” Maniez said. 

Each interview had a different tone and character; they captured memories of mining, logging, farming and living in a small town. The interviews addressed events from 1920 up to the 1990s. 

“It was amazing what the oral historian was able to draw out of the subjects that they probably couldn’t have expressed by themselves by just writing it down,” Maniez said.

The recorded interviews were transcribed by Penny Miller.

The history shorts were created in partnership with TV 21/61, Issaquah’s local cable station. Eleven of the interviewees agreed to share selected stories on film. Videographer Lainy Bagwell combined video footage and audio clips with still images and narration to create film shorts around the projects’ recurring themes. These history shorts will air as brief segments on TV21/61.

Interview transcripts will soon be available in the research center at Gilman Town Hall. Text from the interviews will also be available on the museums’ Web site, and will be used in future exhibits, publications and research.

This event is open to the public and refreshments will be served.

Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237, or dhayes@isspress.com.

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