Citizen Historians: Experts on the Oddly Specific
When I started working in historic resources for an architecture firm, I never expected to find myself trying to track down the location of a specific pipe organ and the next day tracing the development of Tacoma's garage rock scene. We rely daily on many amazing websites for local and regional history such as HistoryLink, Densho, BlackPast, and the Wedgwood in Seattle History blog, as well as the invaluable institutional resources of the Seattle Public Library, Special Collections at the University of Washington, Seattle Municipal Archives, and MOHAI. But sometimes we're hung up on a point of history so obscure or just so oddly specific that we throw ourselves on the mercy of the internet and hope for the best. As a result, we have stumbled upon dozens of wonderful websites that show the dedication and--dare we say--obsessiveness of their creators. Here are a few of our favorite sites by those souls I call Citizen Historians:
Local historian Rob Ketcherside, author of Lost Seattle, has made a comprehensive list of changes to Seattle's street names on his website, BA-KGROUND. Fun fact: Roosevelt Way NE was 10th Avenue N until 1930, a fact that doesn't matter too much until you're researching a building you know was constructed in 1919 but that doesn't appear in any records until much later.
You can explore the aforementioned Tacoma garage rock scene at Pacific Northwest Bands, (pnwbands.com) as well as practically everyone else who ever formed a band in the region since 1954, from The Kingsman, who cemented "Louie Louie" as a PNW anthem, to little-known local trio Nirvana. In addition to bands, the site chronicles music venues, concert posters, and even the undersung "Band Boys, Roadies, and Crew." Contribute your own memories of specific shows, venues, festivals, and lost weekends at the Guestbook section.
Unlike PNW Bands' vintage, zine-like feel, the Pipe Organ Database is as smooth and gleaming as the instruments it's dedicated to. Whether you're a pipe organ buff or just like to look at beautiful church interiors, the site traces the histories of individual organs with near-genealogical precision. We've use it when researching a church and, on a separate occasion, a former movie theater--knowing when a pipe organ was located at a specific site helps us pin down the history of the building itself.
The rise and fall (and implosion!) of Seattle's baseball parks and stadiums goes hand-in-hand with the city's cycles of boom-and-bust, and Digitalballparks.com traces our homegrown venues and more than 700 other ballparks throughout the nation (and abroad... Did you know there's a baseball stadium in Antwerp, Belgium called Squirrels Park??).
Finally, you might think that historic preservation research is all houses, churches, and the occasional nuclear reactor, but we do pet cemeteries, too! And when we do, we count on this comprehensive list of pet cemeteries in the United States, courtesy of Boogie the Pug.
We are grateful to all these folks who take their passions and their special interests and make their expertise available to us! We hope you find these links enjoyable and edifying.