On Saturday, September 30, a group of local artists participated in "Artists in the Archives." This program, hosted by the Northwest Room and Tacoma Arts Live with support from Tacoma Creates, invited a group of eight artists to explore the Northwest Room's collections with the idea that these local history sources can inspire and inform their artwork moving forward. The artists represented many disciplines from music to dance to visual art to filmmaking.
Northwest Room staff provided the group with a number of hands on activities that allowed them to investigate topics in local history through primary sources. First, artists examined unique items related to topics like the Fish Wars, the Hawthorne neighborhood, ASARCO, and the debate over the name of Mt. Rainier vs Mt. Tahoma. This exercise allowed them to begin to think about how stories are revealed through documents, photographs, and other materials and whose voices may be missing in those sources. Another exercise demonstrated how to examine the history of a building or neighborhood through newspapers, maps, and other sources. Artists were also given a tour of the Northwest Room and collection storage spaces and shown how other artists have used the Northwest Room's collections in their artwork. The day ended with research time for artists to get research support from Northwest Room staff and begin viewing collections related to their area of interest.
"Artists in the Archives" was a valuable opportunity to demonstrate how the Northwest Room's collections can be relevant for a range of purposes including being able to inspire the creation of new artwork that draws upon Tacoma's unique local stories. Artists participating in the program will be reporting back next year on how the experience impacted their artistic process.