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2017 Denny Lecture with Dr. Frederick L. Brown

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

MOHAI’s annual Denny Lecture presents the very best in regional historical scholarship. This year Dr. Frederick L. Brown examines 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. Animals were never far from people’s minds as they regulated urban spaces, defined neighborhoods, strove for better lives, and debated what it meant to be city-dwellers. And animals, who had their own wills, often countered human plans. Indeed, animals and animal categories have been crucial to struggles over power, place, and identity throughout Seattle’s history. They were key from its founding amid existing indigenous towns in the mid-nineteenth century to the livestock-friendly town of the late nineteenth century to the pet-friendly, livestock-averse modern city. The city, Dr. Brown will show, is more than human.

Frederick L. Brown received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington in 2010, with a focus on the environmental history of U.S. cities. He is the author of The City is More Than Human: An Animal History of Seattle, published in 2016 by the University of Washington Press. He has worked as an historian for the National Park Service in its Western Regional Office, authoring or contributing to historical reports about National Park Service sites in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Hawai’i. He currently works as an independent historian based in Seattle, and is completing a historic resources study of Redwood National Park (California) on a contract basis for the National Park Service. In addition to his historical research, he has worked as a book indexer and librarian. He currently lives in Seattle’s Central District and shares his neighborhood with humans, dogs, cats, crows, sparrows, and other creatures too numerous to mention.

Location: MOHAI

Cost: $15 general public / $10 MOHAI members

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