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Keeping an eye on history

  • Melinda Van Wingen has succeeded Everett Public Library historian Margaret Riddle, who retired in May.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Melinda Van Wingen has succeeded Everett Public Library historian Margaret Riddle, who retired in May.

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By Julie Muhlstein
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Melinda Van Wingen has succeeded Everett Public Library historian Margaret Riddle, who retired in May.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Melinda Van Wingen has succeeded Everett Public Library historian Margaret Riddle, who retired in May.

EVERETT -- Melinda Van Wingen's career had dubious beginnings. Growing up in Salt Lake City, she'd forge her own versions of historical papers, then bury them in the back yard.
"I'd create documents signed by Martha Washington. I'd bury them so I could dig them up," she said.
Her zeal for preserving the past survived childhood. Van Wingen, 29, studied history and French at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., and earned master's degrees in history and in library and information science. She was an intern at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where she worked on creating a database of Holocaust memorials.
On June 30, she started her job as an Everett Public Library historian. She works in the library's Northwest Room, with longtime history specialist David Dilgard. Hers is the new face at the desk recently vacated by Margaret Riddle.
Riddle retired from the library in May after 31 years of researching and preserving local history.
"Margaret has quite a legacy," said Van Wingen, who lives in Seattle. "What Margaret Riddle did here, creating a digital collection from glass plate negatives, she made those photographs incredibly accessible." The library's collection now includes digital versions of Everett's rich photographic history, including photos from the commercial studio of J.A. Juleen.
Van Wingen's goals include expanding digital collections, offering podcasts of Northwest Room programs and creating a disaster plan to preserve materials. She'll work on programs related to the 2009 centennial celebration of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition. The event known as Seattle's first world's fair was held at the University of Washington in 1909.
No matter how much information is online, Van Wingen believes in the library as a place. While learning about this place, she's been pleased to see enthusiasm for its history.
"It really is its own place, with a history distinct from Seattle," Van Wingen said. While in academia, she saw historians as the major users of library archives. Here, she more often sees people researching their houses.
"There are so many history buffs," she said. "It's wonderful to see all these people who care about these resources."

Reporter Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or muhlstein@heraldnet.com.
Meet the new historian
Name: Melinda Van Wingen
Title: Historian, Everett Public Library
Age: 29
Education: Bachelor's degree, Scripps College, history and French studies; master's degree, University of Maryland, history and certificate in museum scholarship; master's of library and information science, University of Washington
Hometown: Salt Lake City
Library family: Husband Jacob Van Wingen's parents met in library school at Columbia University
Hobbies: Reading fiction and running with her border collie Essie
Story tags » Everett

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