Waterfront Stories Project: Seattle
It’s been a pleasure to further develop our community storytelling model with Friends of Waterfront Seattle, the nonprofit organization interfacing with the public as Seattle undergoes major development along its waterfront. The multi-year project will create new public spaces as the city’s elevated highway is removed.
Our mutual mission: to use local residents’ stories as the connector between a diverse range of communities that will benefit from the project.
Expanding the museum model
Katie Spencer, long-time collaborator (and Founding Director of a museum based on community stories), and I have been working with Friends to expand the museum model using exhibits to generate stories. The model, inspired in part by some of the early work of the Charm Bracelet Project in Pittsburgh, additionally uses community events to gather stories. It was a refreshing and vital process, setting up popup exhibits in a variety of community locations, including:
- Pike Place Market on an afternoon when locals buy from the farmer’s market
- the Native American Salmon Homecoming Festival
- directly on a walking trail on the waterfront at Olympic Sculpture Park
- the offices at Friends of Waterfront Seattle
We asked questions like “What does the Seattle waterfront mean to you?” In these environments, people shared stories that have become gems to us, including the one below from the Salmon Homecoming Festival:
The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle has been an anchor institution on the project, lending synergy with it’s own mission to highlight community stories, with possible future exhibits drawn from community stories. (It was our initial Storykiosk installation at MOHAI that created the seed for the Friends project).
Emerging from this is an approach we’re calling “story campaigns” — specific periods of time to gather community stories through a range of methods, including Storykiosk popups at community events, exhibit installations, and our new online tool gathering video stories via email invitation on users’ own smartphones and tablets.
The goal: connect out as widely as possible to facilitate community storytelling. We are looking forward to next steps developing the model.