17 Calendar

Denny Lecture

Learn about some of the most influential topics in Seattle and Puget Sound history.

The annual Denny Lecture, named in honor of a founding family of Seattle, presents the very best in regional historical scholarship, recognizing an individual who is making a difference in the community and beyond through an exploration of history. Topics range from topography and innovation, to African American history and how a city’s changing demographics influence the community.

2017 Denny Lecture with Dr. Frederick L. Brown

This year, Dr. Frederick L. Brown discusses the role of animals in struggles over power, place, and identity throughout Seattle history. Brown is the author of The City Is More Than Human: An Animal History of Seattle (University of Washington Press), and an independent historian working with the National Park Service.

Listen to Past Denny Lectures

Useful Creatures, Faithful Friends: How Animals Helped Make Seattle a City

In his 2017 lecture, Dr. Frederick L. Brown examined Seattle’s often overlooked animal history, considering how animals of all sorts, but especially domestic ones, have had a surprisingly important role in the making and remaking of the city.

The Whitest City in America? African American Influence on the History of Seattle

In his 2016 lecture Dr. Quintard Taylor, Jr. explored Seattle’s African American history and how the city’s changing demographics influence its future. Dr. Taylor’s talk emphasized why black history matters to all Seattleites, even in one of the whitest cities of the nation.

The Protean City: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography 1851-2014

David B Williams discussed how Seattle’s citizens have altered the city’s landscape in his 2015 Denny Lecture. Seattleites have made drastic changes to the city’s landscape since settlers’ first arrival to the present day, which he examined during his talk.

2016 Denny Lecture: Dr. Quintard Taylor, Jr.

The Whitest City in America? African American Influence on the History of Seattle

Dr. Quintard Taylor, Jr. discussed Seattle’s African American history and how this demographic is influencing the city’s future in the 2016 Denny Lecture. On October 27, 2014 an article appeared in The Seattle Times indicating that the city was moving in the opposite direction of most major American urban areas—even suburban King County—by becoming whiter. While Taylor’s lecture did not challenge that assertion, it examined the ways in which African Americans have influenced Seattle’s culture and politics.

Specializing in African American history in the West, Dr. Taylor is the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History at the University of Washington, editor of the Race and Culture in the American West book series, and founder of

2015 Denny Lecture: David B. Williams

The Protean City: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography 1851-2014

In 2015, historian David B. Williams presented original research from his upcoming book Too High and Too Steep, exploring how Seattle’s citizens have altered the city’s landscape with an unrivaled zeal from the settlers’ first arrival to the present day.

David B. Williams is a freelance writer focused on the intersection of people and the natural world. His books include Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology and The Seattle Street-Smart Naturalist: Field Notes from the City. Williams also works at the Burke Museum and maintains the blog

2014 Denny Lecture: Margaret O’Mara

It Takes a City: Seattle and the Alchemy of Innovation

Seattle has been home to a remarkable number of world-changing individuals, organizations, and ideas. What is it about the city that makes it a hub of innovation? Margaret O’Mara, curator of the Bezos Center for Innovation, examined the importance of place to the process of innovation, and how Seattle’s past has shaped its inspiring present in her 2014 Denny Lecture.

Margaret O’Mara is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington, specializing in political, economic and urban history. She is the author of Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search for the Next Silicon Valley and is a founding member of the Lake Union Lab.

2012 Denny Lecture: Knute Berger

Space Needle: The Spirit of Seattle

Knute Berger has been writing insightful commentary on Seattle’s heritage and culture for many years. In 2012, on the 50th anniversary of Seattle’s most recognizable icon, Knute Berger shared stories about his time spent as the Space Needle’s writer-in-residence and described how he uncovered new material on the origins of the iconic landmark as he researched and wrote his book Space Needle: The Spirit of Seattle.

A Seattle native, Knute Berger is an accomplished Seattle journalist. He is a columnist for Crosscut, is the editor-at-large for Seattle magazine, and is a regular guest of Weekday with Steve Scher on Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW-FM (94.9). He won the Washington State Historic Preservation Officer’s Annual Media Award for his coverage of heritage issues for Crosscut in 2008. In addition to his book about the Space Needle, Knute is the author of Pugetopolis: A Mossback takes on Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps and the Myth of Seattle Nice.

2011 Denny Lecture: Lorraine McConaghy

New Land, North of the Columbia, A Historical Travelogue

The inaugural Denny Lecture featured MOHAI’s award-winning public historian, Lorraine McConaghy, PhD. McConaghy discussed her book, New Land, North of the Columbia, which is a comprehensive history Washington State from 1853 to the present day. McConaghy described her research, as well as the a fascinating array of primary materials she uncovered ranging from maps, personal correspondence, public records, patent drawings, menus, and paper dolls. Highlights included such treasures as Abraham Lincoln’s telegram to Washington Territory’s governor, the rough draft of Theodore Roethke’s The Rose, and a NASA map of Washington shot by Landsat satellites.

Dr. McConaghy is the public historian emeritus at MOHAI, and a lecturer in Museum Studies at the University of Washington. She has received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching History, the DAR National Heritage Medal for Oral History, the AKCHO Charles Payton Award, and the Annual History Award from the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild. Recently, she also received the Robert Gray Medal from the Washington State Historical Society, the highest honor available to a historian in this state.

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