Historic photographs and records that document the city’s past are plentiful at the Ezra Meeker Historical Society, the Karshner Museum, the South Hill Historical Society, the Washington State Fair and Events Center and in the history room at the Puyallup Public Library.
But for years, the hope those groups share — to bring their respective collections together and make them available on a unified website — has never taken off.
“Nobody ever had the budget, resources or manpower to get this dream going,” said Beth Swartzbaugh, the adult services librarian and coordinator of the library’s history room.
Tim Wadham started as the public library director last year, and he brought a passion for preserving local history and ensuring it becomes more accessible to everyone.
“We have a real treasure, which is this history room,” Wadham said. “I love the fact that this library has a connection with the history of the community.”
Wadham said the library’s emphasis on preservation was key in his decision to come to Puyallup. He’s making it his mission to complete a project that will bring the different collections together and put them together on one website.
Last week, Wadham announced a commitment from Jerry Korum’s Korum For Kids Foundation to donate $12,000 in seed money that will jump-start a campaign to raise the funds to make a website possible.
Sophia Hall, executive director of Korum For Kids Foundation, said it was her father Jerry’s wish to help launch the project because of the importance he puts on history. He wants to ensure people of all ages have access to Puyallup’s history, Hall said.
“We enjoy the community and want to continue to give to the community and make it the best community in Washington,” she said. “This history shouldn’t be lost. It’s time that we step up and realize we have this whole new world of technology, but we don’t want to give up on what happened yesterday.”
Wadham said he hopes to use the $12,000 to “leverage support from the community” and “galvanize the community around preserving the local history.”
“In an initial audit of the groups’ collections, we know there are thousands of historic photographs that need to be preserved and digitized,” Wadham said.
He hopes providing photographs on one website will encourage residents to visit and help identify subjects in the photos, and that would generate a shared-history experience.
Swartzbaugh said the library will solicit financial support from the community to match the $12,000. Beyond that, the library plans to enter a second phase of applying for additional grant funding.
Swartzbaugh said she’s grateful for Wadham’s leadership.
“Tim gave (the project) momentum and gave it a reality,” she said. “Mr. Korum’s donation is really extraordinary because it will help fulfill the dreams of many in the community.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.