Volume 29, Number 4, Winter 2007

Washington Rural Heritage

Laura Robinson Washington State Library

A large number of small and rural public libraries and other heritage institutions in the state of Washington are in possession of unique, irreplaceable material highlighting the history of their communities. In the majority of instances, these institutions lack staffing, expertise, and resources to make these treasures widely available to the public, schools, and research communities. The infrastructure to ensure long-term access to online collections is often a major stumbling block for small institutions.

Washington Rural Heritage is a new initiative by the Washington State Library to establish a statewide digital repository and provide the infrastructure and training to digitize and serve historically unique collections from small and rural communities to a widespread audience.

The Washington Rural Heritage initiative shifts focus from funding repetitive projects at individual institutions to creating a collaborative model that centralizes infrastructure and supports community projects with traveling staff and equipment provided by the state library.


Identifying, researching, and cataloging objects will be a collaborative effort that will take place onsite within each community. Collaborative efforts will be encouraged between local public libraries and strategic partners such as historical societies, museums, tribes, and schools.

Initial digitization and imaging will be provided by traveling staff of the Washington State Library while training on selection and cataloging will be provided to local staff. The items will be aggregated into community collections in a digital repository hosted and maintained by the Washington State Library.

The Collections

Community collections can be made up of various items of historical and cultural significance. For example, old photographs, historic texts, memorabilia, maps, artwork, clothing, and so on, are objects that can be included in a collection.

Each participating community or institution will create their own individual collection, which will be packaged and added to the online digital repository. A portal link to the content will be provided via the Washington State Library Web site. Together, these collections will make up the Washington Rural Heritage Collection.

Aggregating the collections into a statewide digital repository will improve access to items across the state, ensure better consistency across the collections, and provide the benefit of giving researchers the choice to search across multiple collections or limit searches within one collection.

For more information about the initiative, please contact Laura Robinson, Washington State Library, (360) 570-5568, or visit the Washington Rural Heritage Web site.