June 3, 2014

UW Libraries hosts digital collection of activist Gary Greaves’ interviews

News and Information

Gary Greaves

Gary Greaves

In the 1990s, Seattle-area activist Gary Greaves, interested in how the Northwest had changed since the 1962 World’s Fair, taped more than 100 interviews with civil rights and labor leaders and fellow activists.

Now, through a collaboration between University of Washington Libraries Special Collections Department and the Museum of History and Industry, those interviews have been digitized and the collection is being made available to the public online.

Greaves conducted the interviews with the aim of compiling a book he tentatively titled “Seattle AD,” but he died in 2009 at the age of 57 with the project unfinished. The interview tapes sat in a basement until discovered by Frances McCue, Greaves’ widow, a senior lecturer in the UW English Department and writer-in-residence in the UW Undergraduate Honors Program.

“He wanted to know a more truthful representation of Seattle’s history than the one typically heard in the media and classrooms,” McCue wrote in a statement about the collection. “But he was acutely aware that no such book existed, so he decided to write one.”

Listen to a Gary Greaves interview
Click the link to hear part of an interview with John V. Fox, a Seattle housing advocate, about protesting high-density zoning issues on Capitol Hill.

McCue found the tapes in an old suitcase and brought them to the attention of people at the Museum of History and Industry, where she worked as a consultant, and then UW Libraries.

John Vallier, head of distributed media services and the UW Libraries Media Center, oversaw the digitization of the interviews, which was accomplished by two of McCue’s former students, Sean Clancy and Sean Higgins. Deborah Mangold, a volunteer with the museum, secured signed releases from those interviewees still available. Former UW Information School student John George also assisted in the Media Center and wrote a grant for the project.

Clancy said the interviewees “described the daily affairs of social movements that I had only read about in books. … They addressed the dynamics of regional power and public opinion that ultimately resulted in today’s political climate and urban infrastructure.”

While work was under way on the interviews, it was discovered that the Museum of History and Industry already had an archive of 29 video and audio interviews Greaves conducted when a volunteer there. The two collections will now be combined at the UW.

The museum will hold a celebration of the interview collection, with McCue on hand, from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 8, in the Microsoft Lakefront Pavilion.

  • This article was adapted from a news release by McCue.
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