I am proud to announce that the Lake Union Virtual Museum has been awarded a grant from 4Culture, a cultural services agency of King County. 4Culture is funded by the county’s lodging tax and supports a range of arts, cultural and historic preservation activities.
I learned about 4Culture from a friend just a few days before this year’s application deadline in March. After attending an orientation session at 4Culture’s Pioneer Square headquarters, I scurried to put together an application package, including letters of recommendation from several of the historians who appear in the virtual museum’s videos. Dick Wagner, who kindly wrote one of these letters, called the virtual museum “a fresh and fun intellectual experience.”
“In this age of infinite recreational choices,” he went on, “I feel it is important to offer history in packages that successfully compete with sports, pop music and truck demolition derbies…the digital museums can well become an addictive means of widening intellectual horizons and gaining pride of place without leaving home.”
Most 4Culture grants go to well-established organizations, so I wondered if they would even consider funding an individual effort like mine, and I didn’t expect much when I opened a letter from them in June. I was pleasantly surprised to read that while they were not granting the full amount I had requested, they had awarded $4,000 to my project. The fact that they recognized the value of my work to the local community meant more to me than the dollar amount of the grant, so I was delighted.
This grant will help me add new exhibits to the Lake Union Virtual museum in the coming year. I have already begun work on the first of these by videotaping an extensive interview with Paula Becker of Historylink.org. Paula recently co-authored with Alan Stein a beautiful book entitled Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Washington’s First World’s Fair, published in June by Historylink and available now in bookstores, Amazon.com and at Bartell Drugs, where I bought my copy.
On a sunny morning in early July, Paula sat down with me in West Montlake Park and talked about Lake Union’s role in the AYPE, Seattle’s first world’s fair of 1909. Turning toward the University of Washington across Portage Bay, she painted vivid word pictures of the opposite shore a hundred years earlier, when it exploded with activity, music and fireworks all summer long, as part of the “Pay Streak” – the carnival side of the otherwise high-minded fair.
A couple of hours later, strolling among the UW Medical Center buildings that now stand where the Paystreak was, we came to a boat rental place with dozens of people lined up to rent kayaks and canoes. In an impromptu interview on a dock there, Paula remarked that while the surroundings may have changed drastically in a hundred years, the festival atmosphere of people enjoying Lake Union on a summer day hasn’t changed a bit.
My new exhibit on the Lake’s role in the AYPE will be online soon.