Tacoma Public Library’s Northwest Room awarded National Endowment for the Humanities grant

Tacoma Public Library (TPL)’s Northwest Room became the sole public library to receive a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant award this week totaling $145,987. According to their January 9 press release, the NEH funded 260 projects worldwide with awards totaling $33.8 million. TPL’s award falls under the grant category of Cultural and Community Resilience.

Led by TPL’s Northwest Room, “Grit and Resilience: Developing a Community-Centered Approach to Documenting Climate Change in ‘Grit City’” will build a local collection focused on climate change in the region. This will include digitization of selections from TPL’s existing archives as well as the collection and integration of new material from intergenerational interviews on topics such as rising sea levels, wildfires, extreme heat, corporate pollution, and environmental injustice.

"I am thrilled to see this funding for Tacoma Public Library that recognizes the importance of documenting climate change through the narratives of our residents,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. "Every resident holds a unique perspective that contributes to the larger story of our changing climate. By collecting and preserving these stories, we not only see the impacts of environmental shifts on our daily lives but also create a record for future generations to see what we experienced.”

“Grit and Resilience” will follow the participatory model TPL recently implemented with the project to create the Northwest Room’s Community Archives Center (CAC). Developed in 2021-22 with funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant, the CAC’s objective is to address gaps and silences in the historical record by creating a more inclusive, community-centered approach to gathering representative local history – including first-person accounts and non-traditional source materials.

“Grit and Resilience” will be added to the CAC to create a collection focused on the local effects and experiences of climate change. Local organizations and individuals will be invited to contribute throughout all stages of the project, to ensure that the sourcing of archival content for the collection begins and ends with community input. Engagement activities will include meetings with local environmental organizations, partnering with K-12 educators and students, and the utilization of a mobile oral history collection station.

“We look forward to connecting with community members throughout Tacoma to gather stories of grit and resilience as our city continues to witness and adapt the effects of climate change,” stated TPL Director Kate Larsen. “Not only will we continue to build an incredible archival collection, but this project funding allows TPL to continue doing the important work of correcting silences and gaps in the historical record while further strengthening relationships between Tacoma Public Library and the community members we serve.”

Learn more about TPL’s Northwest Room, Community Archives Center, and local history collections at tacomalibrary.org.