Category Archives: freelancing

A brand-new museum exhibit

So, yesterday was the grand opening of the Lakewood Historical
Society’s
latest temporary (there’s a new one every year) exhibit, created by yours truly and mounted last week, in my day job as a freelance museum curator. It was just fine when I arrived, in spite of my annual “everything’s fallen off the walls in the middle of the night” nightmare waking me up about five-thirty in the morning, and we had a good attendance.

The introductory panel.  The photo is one I took, of the golf course featured in the exhibit.  The text reads as follows, for those who can't read the actual photo:  Playgrounds of the Lakes District:  Lakewood's Sports History The Lakes District began as a playground.  As Tacoma grew, its residents began to search for an escape from the bustle and dirt of the city.  The Lakes District, with its oak prairies and many lakes, and its spectacular view of nearby Mt. Tacoma, was ideal. First came the Tacoma Country and Golf Club, the first of its kind in the West.  A streetcar spur was built, creating easy access to it and to summer homes on many of the lakes, including American Lake, which later began hosting crew races. The bustle of Tacoma came to Lakewood with the roaring of the racecars at the Tacoma Speedway.  The Lakewood Ice Arena enabled many a figure skating champion. And last but not least, Fort Steilacoom Park was created from the grounds of the old state insane asylum, becoming the center of modern sport in Lakewood today.
The introductory panel. The photo is one I took, of the golf course featured in the exhibit.

The text reads as follows, since making the photos big enough for you to read directly from them would make them enormous:

The Lakes District began as a playground. As Tacoma grew, its residents began to search for an escape from the bustle and dirt of the city. The Lakes District, with its oak prairies and many lakes, and its spectacular view of nearby Mt. Tacoma, was ideal.
First came the Tacoma Country and Golf Club, the first of its kind in the West. A streetcar spur was built, creating easy access to it and to summer homes on many of the lakes, including American Lake, which later began hosting crew races.
The bustle of Tacoma came to Lakewood with the roaring of the racecars at the Tacoma Speedway. The Lakewood Ice Arena enabled many a figure skating champion.
And last but not least, Fort Steilacoom Park was created from the grounds of the old state insane asylum, becoming the center of
modern sport in Lakewood today.

Here’s a sampling of the rest of the exhibit, in case you live too far away to see it in person. If you’re not, however, the exhibit will be up for an indefinite time (months at the least — the date for the next exhibit opening hasn’t been set yet).

The Tacoma Country and Golf Club panel, and three photos of important figures in the club's history.
The Tacoma Country and Golf Club panel, and three photos of important figures in the club’s history.

And the panel text again:

In 1894, four transplanted Scots leased a cow pasture in South
Tacoma to build the first golf course in the U.S. west of the Mississippi. They imported clubs and balls from Scotland, the customs inspector mistakenly labeling them as agricultural implements, saving the club some cash.
In 1904, the golfers partnered with the existing Tacoma Country Club, buying property along American Lake in what is now Lakewood, expanding the club’s offerings and selling building lots, at the newly-renamed Tacoma Country and Golf Club’s permanent home.
In spite of many setbacks – among other things, two club houses were lost to fire – the club prospered, hosting six national tournaments over the years. Most recently, the golf course won a renovation of the year award.
Sporting a new vintage feel, the course is now ready for another 120 years.

The first display case, with a historical golf ball plaque and ball, and a golf ball signed by Jordan Spieth, who won the Masters this year, and who is distantly related to one of our board members.
The first display case, with a historical golf ball plaque and ball, and a golf ball signed by Jordan Spieth, who won the Masters this year, and who is distantly related to one of our board members.
The other display case, with a pair of hockey skates used at the ice arena, and several programs from the Ice Capers performances held there.
The other display case, with a pair of hockey skates used at the ice arena, and several programs from the Ice Capers performances held there.
The lower righthand photo in this grouping is of a car called the Great Big Baked Potato Special, which raced several times at the Tacoma Speedway.
The lower righthand photo in this grouping is of a car called the Great Big Baked Potato Special, which raced several times at the Tacoma Speedway.  The gentleman above it is Eddie Rickenbacker, WWI hero and race car driver, and immediately to his left is the first women’s race at the Speedway, held in 1916.  Below it is the last race ever held at the Speedway, in 1922.
The ice arena panel, and several photos.
The ice arena panel, and several photos.

Here’s the text for the ice arena panel:

In 1936, due to his wife Mary’s interest in figure skating, Norton Clapp purchased the Oakes Ballroom on the shores of Lake Steilacoom to turn it into an ice arena.
Private at first, then open to the public, the arena became the home of the Lakewood Winter Club. Despite its drawbacks, including its non-regulation size and lack of a Zamboni, pro instructors John Johnsen, George and Leah Mueller, and Kathy Casey produced many nationally-known figure skaters including two-time Olympian Jimmy Grogan, two-time U.S. Sr. Men’s Champion Scott Davis, Women’s Jr. World Champion Jill Sawyer, and U.S. Pairs Champions Judi and Jerry Fotheringill. The club also put on an annual performance called the Ice Capers. Ice hockey and curling competitions took place here as well.
But by the mid-1970s, the arena’s condition had deteriorated to where it was no longer safe to skate there, and in 1982, its roof and one wall collapsed into Lake Steilacoom. The Lakewood Ice Arena was no more. But thanks to Mary Clapp and the Lakewood Winter Club, ice sports are still alive and well in Pierce County.

The Fort Steilacoom Park panel, one of the timeline panels, and several photos.  The background of the big panel was created from a photo I took of one of the barns at the park.
The Fort Steilacoom Park panel, one of the timeline panels, and several photos. The background of the big panel was created from a photo I took of one of the barns at the park.

And the text for the park panel:

First, the land was part of Fort Steilacoom, the oldest fort on Puget Sound. Then it was part of the Washington Insane Asylum, now Western State Hospital, and used as a farm to help provide the inmates with food and useful labor, and as a space for a cemetery, which the group Grave Concerns maintains and improves to this day.
In 1970, the state of Washington leased 350 acres of the land to Pierce County for a park. The county built two rough ballfields, also used for growing hay, but made few other improvements. In 1996, the city of Lakewood was incorporated, and city government took an interest. A collaboration was formed. More playing fields were created and the existing ones improved. Walking trails were added, as well as a dog park and disc golf course. In 2006, the Lakewood Rotary Club and 2871 volunteers built a brand-new playground. And the Partners for Parks community group continues to raise funds to improve our grand park.

The one big artifact.  This is from the Lakewood Winter Club, which was headquartered at the Ice Arena.
The one big artifact. This is from the Lakewood Winter Club, which was headquartered at the Ice Arena.

I hope you enjoyed this, and that if you can come see it in person, you will!

Welcome to my exhibit!

Well, actually, to the Lakewood Historical Society’s new exhibit, which I researched, designed, created, and installed (in my other life as a freelance museum curator), about Lakewood’s long and deep connection with the military, from Fort Steilacoom in the mid-1800s, through Camp, later Fort, Lewis and McChord Air Force base, and on to what is now called Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  Anyway, here are some photos of the exhibit, which I finished installing today, and which opens on Saturday. Do forgive the photography.  Using a flash in the museum is not a good idea, and I obviously need to buy a tripod.

The introductory panel.
The introductory panel, with two photos of the main gate at Fort Lewis, one not long after it was built during WWI, and the other as it is now.
The first exhibit case, including a Civil War era forage cap from Fort Steilacoom, and a WWI era bugle from Camp Lewis.
The first exhibit case, including a Civil War era forage cap from Fort Steilacoom on the right, and a WWI era hat and bugle from Camp Lewis.
The panel about Fort Steilacoom and the early maneuvers in the Lakewood area.
The panel about Fort Steilacoom and the early maneuvers in the Lakewood area.
A timeline panel, a couple of photo panels, and the panel about Camp Lewis.
A timeline panel, a few photo panels, and the panel about Camp Lewis.
Another timeline and more photos.  The panel in the upper lefthand corner is a reproduction of WWII-era "smileage coupons" purchased by civilians, given to soldiers, who could redeem them for movie tickets, food, and other non-necessities.
Another timeline and more photos. The panel in the upper lefthand corner is a reproduction of WWII-era “smileage coupons” purchased by civilians, given to soldiers, who could redeem them for movie tickets, food, and other non-necessities.
The other exhibit case, full of commemorative regimental coins and a plaque with a replica Stryker vehicle from Lakewood's community connector program.
The other exhibit case, full of commemorative regimental coins and a plaque with a replica Stryker vehicle from Lakewood’s community connector program. Oh, and three sets of dog tags. One from WWI, one from WWII, and one from Vietnam, all from local soldiers.
And more photo panels as well as the panel telling about JBLM and the community connector program.
And more photo panels as well as the panel telling about JBLM and the community connector program, which connects local communities with specific military units as a mutual support program.

If you are in the vicinity (here is the link to the Lakewood Historical Society’s website) between noon and two o’clock on Saturday afternoon, May 3rd, for the grand opening, we’d love to see you there.  And if you can’t make it then, the exhibit will be open to the public until next spring — the museum’s hours are noon to four, Wednesday through Saturday.

Something I never really thought I’d see

On an agent’s blog:

Rejections from agents or general trade editors is hardly ever a measure of the quality of your work.  If you’ve gotten a lot of those, look at other ways of getting your work in front of readers.

This makes me believe that the publishing world honestly is beginning to change.  Speaking as someone who is finally getting up the courage to self-publish my books, that first sentence is the antithesis of what I’ve been internalizing for the last ten years or so.  To read that in a “traditional” agent’s blog validates the route I’ve decided to take.  Mind, I would have taken this route, anyway, as on a personal level I need more control over my career than traditional publishing would give me (which is also why I am a former librarian and currently an independent curator and exhibit designer in my other life), but it’s incredibly good to see this right now.

it’s been a long time

Too long, I’m afraid.  I’m about to finish my second gig (the photo curation for the Tacoma Historical Society).  I have finished curating and cataloging over 2200 images, ranging from glass negatives to prints from digital images, and am now in the process of building virtual exhibits, collections of photographs with informative captions, which will be placed online as part of the Society’s website.  I will post the link as soon as it becomes available.  The first two virtual exhibits will be about early Tacoma schools and historic personages of Tacoma, respectively.

I have started a third, curating textiles, beginning with a collection of wedding gowns running the gamut from late 19th century to almost modern, for the Fife Historical Society.  And I am in discussions with yet another local historical society for the creation of another exhibit this fall.  So the freelance museum curator business seems to be keeping me in cotton gloves and acid-free tissue, at any rate.

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Washington State Historical Society research center, where I attended a workshop about curating baskets and other textiles.  The first part of the workshop was standard lecture/question and answer (and very informative), but the second part was touring several of the textile storage rooms, including one that housed over 1500 Northwest-made Indian baskets, many of which were over 100 years old.  I wish I’d brought my camera.  The baskets ran the gamut from thimble-sized to one I could almost have sat in, and included materials from bark to reed to beads.  I think my personal favorites were the one woven to look just like a china cup and saucer, and the collection of thimble-sized baskets.  I felt about those the way I do about miniature quilts at quilt shows.  Wow, that’s impressive.  Man, they must have been insane…

One other piece of unrelated news:  I am in the process of editing, creating cover art, and formatting my historical with a whiff of fantasy novel for the Kindle and Smashwords.  I hope to have it up and for sale by the end of July, and I will announce it here (and everywhere else I can think of) as soon as it becomes available.

And I’ll try not to disappear into the ether on you again any time soon, too.

a finished exhibit

Today I finished installing my first exhibit for pay, Clover Park:  How a school district helped build a community, for the Lakewood History Museum.  The grand opening, complete with ribbon cutting, will take place on Saturday, March 19th, at 1 pm.  The museum itself will be open from noon to six that day (the regular hours are 12-4, Wed.-Sat.).  If you will be in the Tacoma, Washington, area, on that day, we would be very happy to have you drop in!

If you can’t, well, here are some photos I took this afternoon after I wiped the last fingerprints off of the display case covers [g]:

The introductory panel.  The graphic design, four large panels, and templates for the smaller panels were created by the inventive Chris Erlich.  I couldn’t be more pleased with them.
The first display case.  The 1960-vintage Hudtloff Junior High School beanie is fun.  I mounted it on a styrofoam ball covered in polyethylene fleece.
One of the photo panel walls, including a timeline.

More photos, two small text panels, the acknowledgements panel, and another timeline panel.  Lakes High School has national award-winning choirs, as illustrated at the top of this photo.  The top left panel is about extremely recent history, since the Clover Park Warriors won the Washington state 2A basketball state title, and the Lakes Lancers won the Washington state 3A state basketball title, all in the same week last week.
The other display case, including a 1940-vintage high school diploma (Clover Park High School’s first graduating class), and two annuals, a 1940 Clover Park Klahowya, and a 1964 Lakes High School Legend (Lakes’ first graduating class).

This is a small sample of what’s in the exhibit.  In case you’re wondering about the colors, Clover Park High School’s colors are kelly green and gold, and Lakes High School’s colors are royal blue and orange.  They don’t look bad together, do they?

Being a bad correspondent.

One year ago today I started this blog. 

It’s sort of ironic that the reason I haven’t posted much since I finished my Long Trip posts is because my museum work is going so well, and I’ve been incredibly busy during the month of December.  I am going to try to write more often in future in spite of it, because what I’ve been doing is so interesting.  At least it is to me, and I hope it will be to you.

For instance.  This week I just finished cataloging and properly storing two collections of about 100 glass plate negatives for the Tacoma Historical Society.  They’re over 100 years old, but the images are still clear and sharp, which is amazing to me.  The subjects ranged from scenes of Old Tacoma to turn-of-the-last-century hiking trips to Mt. Rainier.  Miners and sawmills and steam locomotives, too. 

The second, as yet incomplete, volume of what I hope will someday become my Yellowstone trilogy features a photographer during the 1890s Yukon gold rush.  He’s based on a real man named Eric Hegg (the University of Washington has a large collection of his photographs here), who hauled crates of fragile glass plates over the Chilkoot Pass and down the Yukon River to Dawson City and on to Nome, Alaska.  Handling the Society’s collection of glass negatives really brought home what that would have been like.  I am shocked, honestly, that any of them survived intact.

Now it’s on to the much less fragile paper photos.  I can’t say I’m not glad.

For my other project, at the Lakewood Historical Society, I interviewed the almost 100-year-old daughter of the woman who was the driving force behind the creation of the Clover Park School District in Lakewood, Washington, for the exhibit I’m building on its history.  She’s amazing.  I hope I keep my brains and memory as intact as she has when I’m 3/4 of her age.  I’ve discovered, too, that, in spite of my preconceptions (having moved 26 times in my lifetime, 14 times long distance), many people do still live in the same place (and sometimes the same house) all their lives. 

I also interviewed the former superintendent of the district in the 1950s, and a 1951 Clover Park High graduate, who very graciously lent the museum his letterman’s sweater and hockey skates for the exhibit, and a 1960 graduate, who donated her junior high school banner and beanie and high school dance cards to the museum.  And visited the state archives, and the school district archives. 

Did I mention that I love research?  And who’d have thought that the history of a school district would be so interesting?

Lucky, lucky me.  I’ve never had work that has made me as happy as this work has. 

Do you love your work?  Have you ever been in a position where you look forward to your work every day?

I am sorry

That I vanished for two weeks.  November was three months crammed into one for me, and real life took over.  To begin with, my first freelance museum gig — I am researching, writing, and designing an exhibit for the Lakewood Historical Society — swung into high gear.  Secondly, my second freelance museum gig (they’re both part-time, adding up to 30 hours a week total) — I am cataloging the photograph collection for the Tacoma Historical Society — began in earnest.  And thirdly, I picked this year to do the National Novel Writing Month challenge.  I finished blogging my Long Trip, too.  Three months crammed into one, indeed.

Oh, and we had two windstorms and a snowstorm this month.

This was the view out my front door the Monday before Thanksgiving

The Lakewood job is researching and designing an exhibit, my first one for pay (I created a small exhibit as a volunteer project last summer).  It will recount the history of the Clover Park School District, which was and is a very large part of the identity of the community that finally incorporated as the city of Lakewood in the 1990s.  Clover Park is both a microcosm of how school districts were formed and grew in Washington state during the 20th century, and a unique-to-Washington example of how the extremely strong military presence in Pierce County could and did change and form how a school district develops, including the creation of a technical college begun to train soldiers during WWII that only moved from the school district to the community college system fifteen years ago.  It’s been much more interesting research than I expected it to be.

The Tacoma job is helping bring order out of chaos, by cataloging the hundreds (perhaps over a thousand, I don’t know yet) of historic photographs the Society has collected in its 20 years of existence.  Everything from 19th century glass plate negatives to digital images.  Through a grant, they were able to purchase PastPerfect, a museum cataloging software program, storage and preservation supplies, and my time for twenty hours a week for seven months.  This week I have set up PastPerfect, transferred what collection files they already possessed from Excel to the new software, and started cataloging, beginning with a collection of antique postcards of local scenes from the turn of the last century.  Some of which have writing on the back.  Talk about social history…

And then there was NaNoWriMo.  I think I’ll wait and talk about that one next time.  Suffice to say for now that 50,000 words in thirty days is a faster breakneck speed than I’ve ever written at before, but I did it.  Which is pretty darned cool, in my humble opinion.

exploring Internationally

Seattle’s International District is a strange and wondrous place. 

They have dragons on the power poles.

They have big traditional gates standing guard over sleek modern cars.
They have the Wing Luke Museum, housed in an old hotel where wave after wave of Asian immigrants lived after they arrived while they got their feet under them.  The Wing Luke is named after the first Asian-American Seattle City Council member, who died in a plane accident at a too-young age.  Not just a museum of the immigrant experience (although it does that extremely well — the tour of the restored hotel was a highlight of the visit), but one of all Asian-Americans, it includes art as well as history.

And they also have Uwajimaya.  I’m hard put to describe Uwajimaya.  It’s sort of like Cost Plus, sort of like Target, plus a huge grocery store and a mall food court, all in one.  Except, of course, that it’s all Asian, all the time [g].  The grocery store is particularly fascinating.  I love learning about what other people eat.  And if you want manga, the bookstore is your place.  Not just shelf after shelf, but wall after wall, both in English and in the original languages.  Fun stuff.

The express bus from Tacoma goes right into the heart of the International District.  A good day was had by all.

P.S.  My website has been updated again, to include sections on the freelance museum work and writing business I am starting.  Please come by and check it out.