UW Libraries e-news
September 2009  |  Return to issue home

UW Libraries to Archive Tse-whit-zen Discoveries

Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett was one of many Lower Elwha tribal youth who worked at the Tse-whit-zen Village site with archaeologists and state construction contractors. The state Department of Transportation abandoned the waterfront construction site in Port Angeles at the tribe's request in December 2004—after spending $90 million in public funds—to protect the ancient village and graves inadvertently discovered in August 2003. Here Bennett, at right, holds an anchor stone discovered at the site, one of about 10,000 artifacts recovered from Tse-whit-zen, now in storage at the Burke Museum. More than 335 burials were also disturbed in the course of the project. The tribe has since reburied its ancestors' remains.*

Seattle Times award-winning reporter Lynda Mapes chronicled the event in her book, Breaking Ground, published by the UW Press. Mapes contacted Libraries Digital Initiatives and expressed interest in donating her materials to create an online exhibit, emphasizing the source material itself, rather than being an adjunct to her book, so that students and researchers can study the notes, photographs and audio recordings as primary source material about the Tse-whit-zen discovery. 

Her materials include handwritten notes of all her reporting activities and observations, audio recordings of interviews with tribal elders, archaeologists, historians, city and state officials, local residents, and tribal youth doing archeological dig work. Also included in the collection are hundreds of images and photos of artifacts, archeological dig site, family photos and lifeways photos of the tribe as it transitioned to homesteading from traditional lifestyles, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s first tribal council, the Elwha River before it was dammed, and the DOT construction project. 

Special care will be taken to exclude culturally sensitive images from the online exhibit.

Mapes and Libraries staff will spend hours planning the virtual exhibit, selecting materials, and securing permissions for publishing specific items. Thanks to an award from Friends of the Libraries, hundreds of hours of student time will be funded to create metadata, transcribe audio files and handwritten notes, and prepare images for internet display.

* Photo by John Loftus

September 2009  |  Return to issue home

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