Each photo tells part of Snohomish County’s story

  • Thu Apr 17th, 2014 9:08pm
  • News

By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist

In 1955, clam diggers on a Port Gardner beach wore fedoras. In January ‘69, the Snohomish River rose so high that people escaped homes in boats. And a month later, on Feb. 9, 1969, a crowd at Paine Field watched the first takeoff of a Boeing 747.

Local historians know all this. Now, with new online access to old Herald photos and other historical pictures, we can all see our region’s past.

One photo at a time, Sno-Isle Libraries is telling the area’s story through its Digitize Our Community History Project. More than 500 images are available online, at www.sno-isle.org/catalog/photos.

They include 235 Everett Herald photos, dating from the early 1950s through 1970. Much older pictures were made available to Sno-Isle by historical societies in Snohomish, Darrington, Edmonds and Langley.

Colleen Brazil, Sno-Isle’s content access manager, said the project began when the agency received a $5,435 grant from the Washington State Library Rural Heritage Program more than a year ago. That money was used to digitize South Whidbey Historical Society pictures, with help from the Langley Library.

The Langley Collection, 195 pictures, shows Freeland settlers, the 1911 Langley High School baseball team, and a portrait of Joseph Whidbey, the first European to circumnavigate Whidbey Island.

After the Langley work, project leaders applied for a $20,000 Sno-Isle Libraries Strategic Initiatives Grant, which paid for hardware, software and computer servers to create an ongoing digital archive.

Staff at Sno-Isle branches worked with volunteers from the Darrington Historical Society, the Edmonds Historical Society, the Snohomish Historical Society and the South Whidbey Historical Society.

It was a different story with photos from The Everett Herald, as the paper was known for decades.

“We were approached by Sno-Isle to provide access,” said Josh O’Connor, publisher of The Daily Herald. The newspaper was preparing to move from downtown Everett to its new offices on 41st Street. Before the move, file cabinets filled with Herald images were taken to the Sound Publishing Inc. facility near Paine Field.

O’Connor said he and Neal Pattison, The Herald’s executive editor, had discussed ways to provide more public access to the newspaper’s work, covering more than a century of local history. The Everett Public Library has the newspaper on microfilm, back to 1901.

Brazil said O’Connor and Pattison met with Cheryl Telford, Sno-Isle Libraries strategic partnership manager, to discuss how to include Herald pictures in the archiving project. “We talked about what we had been doing with the other groups,” Brazil said. Someone was needed to do the work — scanning and providing captions — that historical society volunteers had done with their pictures.

“That type of stewardship, culling through all of this information, was a daunting task,” O’Connor said.

With The Herald pictures, that task was accomplished by Von Flake, a University of Washington student working on his master’s degree in library and information science. “It was a directed field work opportunity,” said Flake, 46, who also has a work-study job at the Lynnwood Library.

Flake spent several months on the project. He “harvested” photos at the Sound Publishing site, then did the scanning and created digital files at the Sno-Isle Libraries Service Center near Marysville. “We were limited to two or three file cabinets loaded with images,” Flake said. Pictures from the 1950s through 1970 were in the best order, and had descriptions.

O’Connor said the most organized files coincide with years when The Herald had a librarian on its staff. Nearly all the pictures in The Herald collection, which Sound Publishing still owns, were taken by Jim Leo and Ken Knudson.

At the Sno-Isle Libraries Service Center today, partners in the photo project will celebrate its first year. Organizations interested in sharing historical photos are welcome at the 1 p.m. event.

The Darrington collection shows early-day loggers and giant cedars. The Brackett residence and the Yost family are among highlights of the Edmonds photos. The Snohomish pictures show a First Street butcher shop and the old bicycle tree. And from The Herald are parades, floods, train disasters, and day-to-day life.

“They are invaluable,” Flake said. “They record moments in time.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

See the photos

View photos from Sno-Isle Libraries’ Digitize Our Community History Project at: www.sno-isle.org/catalog/photos

Along with the Everett Herald Collection, there are collections from historical societies in Darrington, Edmonds, Snohomish and Langley. Groups interested in applying to have historical photos included in Sno-Isle’s collection are invited to an information session at 1 p.m. today at the Sno-Isle Service Center, 7312 35th Ave. NE, Tulalip. Or contact Colleen Brazil, 360-651-7046 or cbrazil@sno-isle.org