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Initiative Overview

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Washington Rural Heritage provides access to digitized primary sources documenting the early culture, industry, and community life of Washington State. The collection is an ongoing project of small, rural libraries and partnering cultural institutions, guided by an initiative of the Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State, and funded under the provisions of the Library and Services Technology Act (LSTA) from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The initiative provides the infrastructure and training to both digitize and serve unique collections to a widespread audience.

The mission of Washington Rural Heritage is to:

  • Enable small and rural libraries to create digital collections of unique items that highlight institutional holdings and tell the stories of their communities.
  • Make these items accessible online to a wide audience.
  • Provide long-term storage and preservation of digital masters created by WRH participants.

This mission is in line with the larger mission of the Washington State Library to "ensure that Washingtonians have access to the information they need today and the history of Washington tomorrow."

The Washington Rural Heritage digital repository currently includes material from the holdings of 153 institutions and 408 privately held collections throughout the state. Local project management is coordinated by 35 public libraries and one tribal library administering annual sub-grants from the Washington State Library, or sustaining existing digital collections using local resources and/or other funding.

The Project

A large number of small and rural public libraries and other heritage institutions in Washington are in possession of unique, irreplaceable material highlighting the history of their communities. In the majority of instances, these institutions lack staffing, expertise, and resources to make these treasures widely available to the public. The infrastructure to ensure long-term access to online collections is often a major stumbling block for small institutions.

The Washington Rural Heritage initiative shifts focus from funding repetitive projects at individual institutions, to a collaborative model which centralizes infrastructure and supports community projects at the local level. The initiative provides participating libraries and their partners with training in various aspects of digital project development and management including: selection, copyight research, digital imaging, metadata creation, use of digital asset management software, evaluation & assessment, etc. Initiative staff develop and maintain project standards, guidelines, and best practices which are based on existing standards in the larger digitization community. Standards are maintained on a project wiki accessible to project participants (note: for a guest username and password please contact project staff).

Washington Rural Heritage also provides on-location services to participating institutions. Traveling staff assist participating institutions with everyday scanning issues, provide specialized scanning on-location (e.g., scanning of large-format items), and train participants in-person.

Collaboration is a critical aspect of the initiative. Identification, research, and cataloging of objects is achieved in a collaborative manner, taking place on-site, within each participating community. Collaboration is encouraged between public libraries and strategic partners such as historical societies, museums, tribes, government agencies, schools and local subject experts.

The Collection

Washington Rural Heritage collections are made up of items of historical and cultural significance. These include: old photographs, historical texts, memorabilia & ephemera, scrapbooks, maps, artwork, objects & artifacts, etc. Video and audio files (e.g., oral histories, lectures, interviews) are also part of the online collection. Many of these collections include unique historical resources not previously available in digital format.

The physical collections are housed locally by owning instiutions around the state, while the digital collections are housed by the Washington State Library (WSL), a division of the Office of the Secretary of State (OSOS). Participating institutions select, scan, and describe items which tell the stories of their communities.

Collections are aggregated into a statewide digital repository—improving access to items across the state, ensuring better consistency across the collections, and providing researchers with the choice to search across multiple collections or limit searches within one collection. WSL creates a customized landing page for participating institutions, allowing for better integration with their own web presence and online collections or catalogs.

Open Archives Initiative logo
Washington Rural Heritage is an OAI-PMH compliant digital library and a registered repository with the Open Archives Initiative.

Copyright Considerations

Washington Rural Heritage items that fall under copyright protection remain under copyright protection. The Washington State Library is not interested in gaining copyright ownership or selling copies of the images. All requests for use or reproduction of the images will be referred to the owning institutions.

In order to preserve digital surrogates and provide long-term access to the collection, the Washington State Library obtains a release from owning institutions to preserve high-resolution copies in long-term "dark" storage, and to provide access to low-resolution (i.e., publication and thumbnail copies) online.

Visit the Washington Rural Heritage Rights & Use page for a full copyright statement.

Advisory Committee

Advisory committee members are made up of volunteers from various institutions (museums, libraries, historical societies, tribes) with expertise in digital collections and repositories, as well as representatives from the established target audiences (historians/researchers, k-12 educators, genealogists, etc.). Committee members will advise on aspects of the project including establishing metadata guidelines, collection selection, insight on use, and discuss other aspects of the project.

Grant Opportunities

Washington Rural Heritage grant opportunities are made available to eligible public and tribal libraries every spring. Application materials are generally made available in early February with an application deadline at the end of April. Awards are announced in mid-June and sub-grantees complete their projects by mid-August of the next calendar year. Please check the Washington State Library's LSTA Grants page for more information about current grant opportunities and past grant awards. Please contact WRH staff for detailed information regarding grant eligibility and requirements.

Washington Rural Heritage home


Evan Robb, Digital Repository Librarian
(360) 704-5228

Project News

Check out new Washington Rural Heritage collections
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Washington Rural Heritage – From Our Cor..., Oct 11 2018

Preserving eastern Washington’s rural heritage
Several public libraries in eastern Washington have been hard at work this year preserving local history with assistance from the State L...
Washington Rural Heritage – From Our Cor..., May 21 2018

Announcing the winners of our 3rd Annual Zine contest!
How many of us remember sitting through dry history classes in school?  And yet history done right is a fascinating and important subjec...
Washington Rural Heritage – From Our Cor..., Mar 1 2018

State Library’s annual report showcases successes
Every year, the Washington State Library (WSL) reports on its use of Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding to the federal In...
Washington Rural Heritage – From Our Cor..., Jan 4 2018


Contributing Institutions

153 cultural institutions have participated in the Washington Rural Heritage initiative to date.  Use the links below to see their contributions.

Adams County Historical Society
Asotin County Library
Asotin County Museum
Battle Days Museum
Benton County Museum & Historical Society
Blue Mountain Heritage Society
Cathlamet Public Library
Cedonia Community Church
Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, WWU
City of North Bonneville
Clear Lake Community Historical Association
Columbia County Rural Library District
Colville National Forest, USDA
Connell Downtown Development Association
Connell Heritage Museum
Davenport Public Library
Dayton Historic Depot Society
Deming Library, WCLS
Douglas County Historical Association
Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum
Ellensburg Public Library
Enumclaw Plateau Historical Society
Enumclaw Public Library
Everson Public Library, WCLS
Foothills Historical Society and Museum
Garfield County Museum
Grandview Library
Guy Albion Historical Society & Museum
Historic Downton Prosser Association
Island Library (Lummi Island), WCLS
Initiative for Rural Innovation and Stewardship (IRIS)
Karolina Lorz Foundation
Kettle Falls Public Library, LoSC
Kiona-Benton City Historical Society
Lake Chelan Historical Society
Libraries of Stevens County
Lincoln County Historical Society
Lopez Island Historical Society
Lopez Island Library
McCoy Valley Museum, Oakesdale Historical Society
Medical Lake Historical Society
Medical Lake Library, SCLD
Metalines Community Libray, POCLD
Mid-Columbia Libraries, Benton City Branch
Mid-Columbia Libraries, Connell Branch
Mid-Columbia Libraries, Prosser Branch
Nisqually Tribal Library
North Bonneville Community Library, FVRL
North Central Regional Library, Omak Library
Northport Historical Society
Ocean Shores Public Library
Odessa High School
Odessa Historisches Museum
Odessa Public Library
Orcas Island Historical Museum
Orcas Island Public Library
Palouse Empire Fair
Pine City Historical Society
Port Angeles Public Library
Puyallup Public Library
R.E. Powell Museum
Ritzville Library District #2
Rosalia Visitors Resource and Interpretive Center
Roslyn Public Library
Roslyn Museum
Roy Chatters Newspaper and Printing Museum
San Juan Historical Museum
San Juan Island Library District
San Juan Island National Historic Park
Sedro-Woolley Museum
Sedro-Woolley Public Library
Sno-Isle Libraries (Langley, Freeland, and Clinton Community Libraries)
South Whidbey Historical Society
Stevenson Community Library, FVRL
Sunnyside Historical Society
Sunnyside Library (YVL)
Tacoma Public Library
Tekoa Museum
Town of Friday Harbor
University of Washington Libraries
Vashon College
Vashon Library, KCLS
Vashon-Maury Heritage Association
Wahkiakum County Historical Society
Walla Walla County Rural Library District
Washington State Archives
Washington State University
Whatcom Museum of History & Art
Whitman County Library
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