Graffiti on a wall at Gasworks Park mocks media giant
The photo at left shows a bit of Seattle wit I found stenciled on a wall at Gasworks Park on the shore of Lake Union. Given the ubiquity of Getty Images in the media world, it wouldn’t be surprising if the company figured out a way to copyright this classic vantage point on the Seattle skyline. I took this picture to celebrate the beginning of my thesis project at the University of Washington, where I am enrolled in the Master of Communication in Digital Media (MCDM) program. My project is a “virtual museum” on the history of Lake Union.
On Thursday I went to the MCDM office hoping to get official approval for this project. I caught Hanson Hosein, the Program Director, hurrying between meetings. Having read my proposal, he said simply and with gusto, “Go ahead and register!” So, I went to the registrar and plunked down my tuition, thereby committing myself to this big endeavor and thinking, “Off we go!”
When I started thinking about this project more than a year ago, I had no idea what its subject would be. All I knew was that I wanted to create a multimedia website on some aspect of Seattle history, using text, images, audio archives and short video documentaries to simulate the experience of visiting a history museum.
A friend suggested that a great subject for my “museum” would be the jazz clubs that flourished along Jackson Street from the 1920s to the 1960s, when Seattle was known among jazz musicians as one of the hottest music scenes in the country. So I read Paul de Barros’ book Jackson Street After Hours from cover to cover, then met with him in a coffee shop near his home in Queen Anne. He pointed out that nearly everyone he profiled in his book is now deceased and suggested that “the time for documentaries on Jackson Street has passed.” He proposed that I focus instead on the current jazz scene in Seattle’s high schools.
Paul’s idea was tempting, but would have meant departing from my idea of emulating a history museum. I also realized that the copyright issues of any website about music could be a nightmare. So I turned to my old friend Dick Wagner, founder of the Center for Wooden Boats (CWB): an open air museum at the south end of Lake Union. “If you could create a website about any aspect of local history,” I asked Dick, “what would it be?” Dick pulled out a manuscript for a book he is writing about the history of Lake Union, titled Legends of the Lake, offering to let me use it as the basis for my project. The book is part of an ongoing program, funded by the City of Seattle, to promote cultural and recreational activities around the lake. Dick felt that my website project could potentially complement this program.
Dick Wagner at the Center for Wooden Boats
This meeting with Dick, in late Spring of 2008, was the true beginning of my current project. After getting nods of approval from CWB’s directors and from Kathy Gill and Hanson Hosein, my chosen advisers at MCDM, I sat down again with Dick Wagner in August to hammer out a plan for the first phase of the project.
Realizing that Lake Union is a big lake with a big story, I decided to tackle only a few aspects of it for my Independent Study project at MCDM during Fall Quarter of 2008. By December I plan to complete a prototype for my “museum” consisting of four to five Web pages. I will submit these, along with a scholarly paper, detailing the theory, background and methodology of my project, as my deliverables to MCDM.
So, I asked Dick to point me towards four chapters in his book that might translate into interesting Web pages with multimedia content. He suggested his chapters on Gasworks Park, houseboats, boat-building and the Native American presence on the lake. I agreed enthusiastically with these suggestions and asked him to supply me with names and contact information for people who are experts on each of these subjects.
As summer drew to a close, I realized that I had better get some stills photos and stock video footage of the lake in its prime season, before the Autumn rains start falling. Originally I was planning to shoot all my video in Standard Definition, but my first visit to Vimeo’s HD channel made me realize that HD is rapidly becoming the way to go for video on the Web. So I quickly purchased an HD camcorder and began bicycling around the lake with it (along with my fluid head tripod and a still camera in a 40 pound pack), shooting anything that seemed interesting. The picture at the top of this blog, of the young family frolicking at Gasworks Park, is a still from the HD video I shot in late August.
My next steps will be to schedule video interviews on each of the four topics Dick and I selected. Another very important step will be to establish contact with the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) to get advice from someone there and arrange for access to archival photos. I will report on my progress in these areas in my next blog post.