Submitted by Washington State Historical Society

The Washington State Historical Society is seeking public participation in identifying monuments, markers, and plaques across the state that are imprinted with the Society’s name. Their goal is to work with local communities and stakeholders to develop a full inventory of these historical markers and to audit them for physical integrity and historical accuracy, as well as evaluating whether they represent the Society’s mission and professional standards.

Marker for Fort Walla Walla. It consists of text carved into wood. Recently found to have structural damage and removed for further evaluation. Image WSHS collections, creation date 1945, catalog ID: 1996.41.70. Photo courtesy: Washington State Historical Society

This collaborative project is one of the actions outlined in the Society’s recently issued Statement of Commitment to examine its past and build a more inclusive future. “We’re asking the question, ‘Do markers and monuments established a century ago represent our mission of partnering with our communities to explore how history connects us all?’ Does the historical interpretation support our values of scholarship and diversity?” Jennifer Kilmer, the Society’s director, explained. To read the full Statement of Commitment, go to www.washingtonhistory.org/about/belonging-diversity-equity-and-inclusion.

The Society has developed a simple process for the public to contribute to this statewide inventory of monuments and markers. “When you find a marker or monument that is attributed to the Washington State Historical Society, please send us a link to the GIS coordinates in Google maps, along with photographs of the item and its surroundings. You can send that information to monuments@wshs.wa.gov,” said Allison Campbell, the Society’s heritage outreach manager.

She added, “The Washington State Historical Society was founded in 1891, and today, 129 years later, the way we interpret and teach history has evolved.  We recognize that history has multiple perspectives and includes important stories that are often overlooked or ignored due to racial, gender, or other biases.  It’s time for a thorough review of commemorative pieces representing Washington’s history. And it’s a big state so we are asking for the public’s help in conducting this audit.”

The Society plans to facilitate a public dialogue around any markers, monuments or plaques identified for possible changes.

Battle of Spokane Plains historical marker. A close-up of the plaque on the pyramid shaped stone monument to mark the Battle of Spokane Plains. Erected by Washington State Historical Society. Image WSHS collections, creation date 1945, catalog ID: 1996.41.143. Photo courtesy: Washington State Historical Society

Monuments and markers attributed to the Washington State Historical Society come in different shapes and sizes. They might be statues, columns, stone markers, roadside signs, or plaques on buildings. The Society is also seeking information about highway heritage markers placed in collaboration with the Department of Transportation and Washington State Parks between 1950 and 1990. To contribute to the inventory, the Society kindly requests that you take photos capturing the entire monument, along with close ups of the complete inscription, any damage or natural wear and tear, and anything notable in the surroundings that would help to identify the location of the monument/marker.  In addition, photos of adjacent or nearby interpretive signage, labels, or markers would be helpful and appreciated.

Mullan Road monument, Spokane. Monument erected by the Washington State Historical Society, 1922. Image WSHS collections, catalog ID: 1996.41.107. Photo courtesy: Washington State Historical Society

“We do have a list of markers, but we have partial information, some have been relocated over the years and we do not have current condition reports. With participation from our communities across the state, we hope to generate a full and detailed list of monuments and markers with the Washington State Historical Society’s name on them. If you’re unsure of whether a name indicates our organization, for example if something says Washington History Society or something similar, please go ahead and submit and we can research it,” said Kilmer. “Once we have a complete audit, we’ll gather historians and preservationists to review, identify those that need repairs, updating or changes, consult with relevant tribes and communities, and prioritize actions to take.”

To participate in this statewide audit, if you find a WSHS marker, monument or plaque, or a DOT highway heritage marker, please e-mail photos and GIS coordinates if possible to monuments@wshs.wa.gov. The Washington State Historical Society is grateful for your participation.

For further information, contact Allison.Campbell@wshs.wa.gov, or see https://www.washingtonhistory.org/get-involved/monuments-inventory/.

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