Saturday, September 19, 2009

WSGS State Conference: Day One

This is a duplicate of a post I've written for the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society blog.

I arrived at the Davenport Friday afternoon around 12:30. People had already been picking up their registration packets on the mezzanine, and the tours were leaving from the lobby at one. Like Charles Hansen (my fellow EWGS blog team blogger), I had chosen the Eastern Regional Branch of the Washington State Archives tour, mainly because every time I've seen a tour organized for it, it's been during the work day. I don't have ancestors from this area, but knowing how an archive "works" and what it contains is knowledge that can be applied to any ancestral location. We left with Dick Jensen of Inland Empire Tours on a tour bus for a 20-minute ride southwest to Cheney where the archives is located on the campus of Eastern Washington University.


Inside the tour bus

The lobby at the archives

One view of the reading room

Another view of the reading room

When we arrived at the archives, we were met by Jeff Creighton who took us first into the
reading room, where patrons wait to have records brought out to them. (For those who are unaware of the differences between libraries and archives, the main one is that in a library, you can access the holdings yourself, whereas in an archive, you request items from the collection and they are brought out for you to examine). Then he took us back to the stacks, something patrons would not normally have access to. Here, the paper records of the 11 eastern counties of Washington are kept, records the county clerks need to archive. Each county decides what it wants to store at the regional archives, so what is available varies. At this point, my batteries went out on my camera, and I replaced them only to discover my backup ones hadn't charged up. I was frustrated, but figured I would just charge everything up at home that night.

The group heading from the reading room back to the stacks

Jeff Creighton (facing camera) explaining the records in the stacks

Next, we went upstairs, where we were met by a Ms. Kaiser [sorry, I didn't catch her first name] who took us through the Digital Archives area. This is where paper archives and photographs are scanned and put into digital format to be placed online at the Digital Archives website. Also, the electronic records of the state--everything from the data that's on the digital archives website to the archived former governors' websites--is stored, backed up, and protected at this location. They also back up many local governments' data, such as police and fire departments' electronic data from around the state, as a protective measure. Additionally, they keep backups offsite. We got to look at their numerous computers which are huge, both physically and in storage capacity. Their newest computer can store up to 200 TB of data!

Washington has pioneered the state digital archives program not only in the U.S., but globally as well. Representatives of state and national governments have visited the archives and some have found that it would be more economical to have our digital archives digitize their records for them. There are already twelve states contracted to have the WSDA digitize their documents through a Library of Congress grant: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas.

Last, we watched a video about the Digital Archives that was made several years ago. Then we returned to our tour bus, where Dick Jensen told us about his book, Set in Stone. It's about the monuments in and around Spokane County, and sounds very interesting. On the way back to Spokane, Dick stopped at the Battle of Four Lakes historical marker and told about the history it represented. The inscription is incorrect; the number of Native Americans who participated in this battle was actually about 500; there probably wasn't 5,000 total in the area.

After we returned to the Davenport, I ran into Barbara Brazington, society librarian, who told me that the free beginning genealogy classes by Shirley Penna-Oakes (filling in for Susan DeChant) that had been held earlier in the day at the downtown branch of Spokane Public Library had been a roaring success. Forty-five turned out for the morning session and 30 attended the afternoon one! Barbara and Juanita McBride had been kept very busy after the classes helping the attendees with their research in EWGS's genealogy collection on the third floor. Several people signed up to attend the conference after the classes, and others signed up to become society members!

I returned to the mezzanine to prepare for the vendors that were supposed to be arriving soon and setting up, and noticed two women chatting. One I recognized immediately as Janet Hovorka (a.k.a. The Chart Chick) of Generation Maps and the other turned out to be Laurie Buzbee, wife of Bruce Buzbee of RootsMagic. I soon met Bruce, and Janet's husband Kim. It was so nice to meet everyone that I "knew" from the blogs and Facebook, and I was sorry my camera wasn't working and that I was so busy we never had a chance to get some photos together.

After getting the vendors organized, it was time for dinner in the Isabella Room, with Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak as our speaker. I was at the back of the room, which was a boon, because after the head table was served, the servers started from the back and worked their way to the front. There was a delicious salad which included dried cranberries, lemon pepper chicken with soy bean garnish, sticky rice, rolls, and apple torte for dessert. Besides water, tea, and coffee being served by our waitstaff, there was also a no-host bar.

After dinner, Megan spoke on the topic "Cases that Made My Brain Hurt." The acoustics in the room were not very good (this was an uncarpeted ballroom, remember), and it was difficult to hear her at the back of the room; nevertheless, the cases she presented were interesting and were delivered with humor. When the presentation was over, many attendees went to their luxurious rooms in the floors above, but I went home to be greeted by a houseful of company. My husband's sister and brother-in-law were traveling through and had stopped by to visit. My husband's brother and nephew who live here in town had also dropped in, and so did my daughter after her work shift. After everyone left, it took me quite a while to wind down and it was around 1:00 AM before I was able to fall asleep...with a planned wake up time of 5:30 AM!

WSGS State Conference: Day Two
WSGS State Conference: Day Three
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