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History Café

Ever wondered how Seattle came to own most of a river for its drinking water? What were Seattleites up to during the Civil War? What’s underneath the steep hill that Pike Place Market sits upon? Join MOHAI and HistoryLink on the third Wednesday of the month for a discussion about local history—both popular and obscure—and discover something new.

History Café: Sidewalk Stories with Seattle Walk Report

Wednesday, September 21, 2022, 6:30-8:00 pm

This program is now sold out–tune in live on MOHAI’s Facebook page to virtually attend this program, linked below.

Join local author and illustrator Susanna Ryan, creator of Seattle Walk Report, as she shares stories from the overlooked history that helped shape street-level Seattle — from coal chutes in Capitol Hill to lampposts in Pioneer Square. Get a behind-the-scenes look at Ryan’s process for researching and creating her books, Seattle Walk Report and Secret Seattle, and learn ways that you can begin to discover the hidden wonders in your own neighborhood.

History Café is produced as a partnership between MOHAI and HistoryLink. Join MOHAI and HistoryLink on the third Wednesday of the month for a discussion about local history—both popular and obscure—and discover something new.

ASL Interpretation and CART captioning is available during the program through generous support of the Institute for Museum and Library Services. For additional accessibility support, please contact programs@mohai.org.

Explore the Stories

History Café: History Café: The Democratizing Power of Radio

Since its inception, radio has been a powerful tool for information, entertainment, and public safety. This year marks the centennial of Washington’s first licensed radio stations which went on the air from Seattle to Spokane and Pullman to Olympia in 1922. Come to History Café to discuss some of the pivotal moments in Washington radio history, and explore the ways in which public broadcasting has helped underserved communities throughout our state.

History Café: Expanding What is Worth Preserving

Historic preservation provides tangible connections to the past by ensuring that historic places remain as cultural touchpoints for generations to come. However, assessments of what is worth preserving have often been based on architectural significance and integrity, leaving out many sites of cultural significance to BIPOC communities.

The Beyond Integrity working group was formed to identify inequity in current preservation processes, engage local decision-makers in embracing new standards, and foster stronger voices for preservation advocates. Join historic preservation advocates who are working to ensure that the places we save represent the full breadth and diversity of our communities.

History Café is produced as a partnership between MOHAI and HistoryLink. Join MOHAI and HistoryLink on the third Wednesday of the month for a discussion about local history—both popular and obscure—and discover something new.

Program Date: April 20, 2022

History Café is produced as a partnership between MOHAI and HistoryLink.

History Café: Exploring Indigenous Food Sovereignty with Dr. Charlotte Coté

From salmon to shellfish to trailing blackberry, the Pacific Northwest coast is rich in local food sources that Indigenous communities have cultivated for millennia. With the violent arrival of colonizers to the region, access and management of these native food resources has been disrupted. Indigenous communities face some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the US and Canada, but activists such as Dr. Charlotte Coté (Tseshaht/Nuu-chah-nulth) argue that this inequity can’t be solved simply by shipping more processed foods to grocery store shelves. Instead, positioning her narrative within the growing Indigenous food sovereignty movement, she calls for the decolonization of foodways, the renewal of Indigenous harvesting methods, and the dismantling of corporate food monopolies.

Join HistoryLink as we discuss Dr. Coté’s upcoming book A Drum in One Hand, a Sockeye in the Other: Stories of Indigenous Food Sovereignty from the Northwest Coast, learn how Indigenous peoples are enacting food sovereignty to resist settler-colonialism and understand how the industrial food system continues to impact the health of our global population and our planet. History Café is produced as a partnership between MOHAI and HistoryLink. Join MOHAI and HistoryLink on the third Wednesday of the month for a discussion about local history—both popular and obscure—and discover something new.

Program Date: March 16, 2022

History Café is produced as a partnership between MOHAI and HistoryLink.

History Café: Honoring Bainbridge Island’s Indipino Community

Award winning film “Honor Thy Mother” tells the untold story of Bainbridge Island’s Indipino community. Descended from Aboriginal mothers and Filipino fathers, the Indipinos reflect on their lives growing up mixed race with no sense of belonging in either culture. Their stories reveal the effect historical trauma had on their childhood as the children of mothers who attended Canadian Indian residential schools. Join us for a screening of the film and a chance to ask questions of filmmaker Lucy Ostrander and executive producer Gina Corpuz. History Café is produced as a partnership between MOHAI and HistoryLink. Join MOHAI and HistoryLink on the third Wednesday of the month for a discussion about local history—both popular and obscure—and discover something new.

Program Date: February 16, 2022

History Café is produced as a partnership between MOHAI and HistoryLink.

History Café: Minoru Yamasaki’s Place in Seattle Architectural History

World-famous architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986) is known in Seattle for designing three iconic buildings: the Pacific Science Center, the IBM Building, and the Rainier Tower. But there is much more to his complex and consequential relationship with the city of his birth. Professor Paul Kidder will explore Yamaski’s University of Washington training, his influence on local architectural styles, his battle with preservationists, and the relationship between his Seattle buildings and his New York World Trade Center design.

Program Date: January 19, 2022

History Café is produced as a partnership between MOHAI and HistoryLink.

History Café: Challenges and Successes of Documenting the Pandemic

It’s been a year and then some. Historical organizations have grappled with how to document and preserve history while living through it. What is collected today shapes the way stories will be told for the future but there are unique challenges facing those who attempt to make sense of the recent past. Join heritage organizations to learn about the lessons learned from this singular moment in history.

Moderated by Jackie Peterson.

Panelists included:

History Café is produced as a partnership between MOHAI and HistoryLink.

Program date: Wednesday, November 17, 2021

History Café: The Teen Dance Ordinance and Youth Political Action

In 1985, Seattle’s vibrant all-ages club scene was abruptly quieted by passage of the Teen Dance Ordinance. Young aspiring musicians could still play in venues like community centers, but it wasn’t the same as the club scene. Youth activism grew, culminating in a series of public meetings where youth and famous allies, like Krist Novoselic, formerly of Nirvana, spoke out in favor of all-ages clubs. The campaign led to the replacement of the Teen Dance Ordinance with the All-Ages Dance Ordinance in 2002.

Join us for a panel discussion about the history of Seattle’s all-ages venues, how youth activism swayed the city council, and the campaign’s lasting impact on Seattle’s music scene.

History Café is produced as a partnership between MOHAI and HistoryLink.

Program date: Wednesday, October 20, 2021

History Café: Revisiting Initiative 13 And LGBT Activism In The 70s

Initiative 13, sponsored by Save Our Moral Ethics, sought to repeal Seattle’s ordinances protecting gay and lesbian employment and housing rights and to abolish the Office of Women’s Rights.

In 1978, a broad coalition of organizations employed varied media strategies to convince voters to reject the measure. The story of grassroots organizations Seattle Committee Against Thirteen (SCAT) and Women Against Thirteen (WAT) and their outreach gives a view into the creative tensions inherent in organizing. Join organizers from the campaign to learn and see lessons that can be applied today.

Co-presented by MOHAI and the Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Project. History Café is produced as a partnership between MOHAI and HistoryLink.

Program date: Wednesday, June 16, 2021

History Café: How Railroads Brought a Checkerboard Landscape to the Northwest

How did Northwest land end up in a checkerboard of land use? Grants to the Northern Pacific Railroad in the 19th century set up a pattern of public and private lands that placed homesteads, towns, tree farms, and federal forest reserves intermingled with each other, all defined by railroad tracks.

Join Charlie Raines, Director of the Sierra Club Cascade Checkerboard Project, as he shares newly created maps that show the pattern from Puget Sound to the Columbia River as it evolved over 150 years.

Program date: Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Photo: Charles Raines

History Café: Filipino American Labor Activism in the Fields and Canneries

Filipino migrant workers on the west coast of the United States have a long tradition of labor activism in the fields of California and the seafood canneries of Alaska. The harrowing stories of survival and determination are the legacy of this generation of Filipino Manongs.

Join Richard Gurtiza and Rey Pascua as they share how famed Filipino labor activists Carlos Bulosan, Larry Itliong, Phillip Veracruz, and Chris Mansalvas overcame government and social injustice to create a progressive workers movement in the fields and canneries.

Program date: Wednesday, April 21, 2021

History Café: The Important Connections Between Health and Homelessness

Learn about the history of health and homelessness in Seattle as author, nurse, and public health researcher Josephine Ensign shares information from her new book, Skid Road: On the Frontier of Health and Homelessness in an American City. Ensign uses narrative history to increase the diversity of voices heard within contemporary healthcare and public policy debates.

Pre-order your copy of Ensign’s book, Skid Road: On the Frontier of Health and Homelessness in an American City, from the MOHAI Mercantile.

Program date: Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Photo: Josephine Ensign

History Café: Hanford and the Homegrown Apocalypse

During World War II and throughout the Cold War, the Hanford Works in Eastern Washington produced plutonium for atomic weapons. The use of these weapons led to enormous loss of life in Japan, an arms race, and unprecedented levels of contamination of the landscape at home. Even today, the massive scale of the Hanford Site often overshadows the stories of the people who built it, worked there, and are cleaning it up.

Join Steve Olson, author of The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age, and Michael Mays, director of the Hanford History Project, for a discussion of the stories of scientists, farmers, engineers, laborers, and bureaucrats they have uncovered.

Program date: Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Photo: Hanford History Project

History Café: Emerald City Hip-Hop with Dr. Daudi Abe

Though far away from the hip-hop centers of New York City and Los Angeles, in the early 1980s Seattle hip-hop artists developed a community-based culture of stylistic experimentation and multiethnic collaboration. Famous hip-hop figures including Sir Mix-A-Lot and Macklemore found mainstream success by going against the grain of their eras.

Hear Dr. Daudi Abe discuss his new book, Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle, to show how Seattle’s hip-hop culture goes beyond art and music to influence politics, the relationships between communities of color and law enforcement, the changing media scene, and youth outreach and educational programs.

Get your copy of Dr. Abe’s book, Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle, from the MOHAI Mercantile.

Program date: Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Photo: Ricardo Frazer

History Café: Writing and Remembrance with Tamiko Nimura

From Japanese American farmers on Vashon Island to the life of State Senator Rosa Franklin, writer and public historian Tamiko Nimura documents stories of people of color from around our state.

Join Nimura and HistoryLink‘s Assistant Director Jennifer Ott for an exploration of memory in history making, oral histories and writing about peoples lives.

Program date: November 18, 2020

Photo: Legislative Photo Services

History Café: Lessons in Building Multiracial Unity with El Centro de la Raza

Seattle’s Latino community successfully founded El Centro de la Raza, the Center for People of all Races, after a 3-month occupation of the old Beacon Hill School in 1972. With the support of a broad multi-racial coalition, today El Centro de la Raza provides important and comprehensive services bringing together communities to organize for lasting social change. Hear from founders and community members on lessons learned from the occupation and how these inform current struggles for racial justice.

Moderated by Enrique Cerna with panelists Enrique Gonzalez, Larry Gossett, Bruce Johansen, Estela Ortega, Sharon Tomiko Santos, and Michael Tulee.

Program date: October 21, 2020

Photo: Jonathan Vanderweit

History Café: Stories from Ron Chew’s My Unforgotten Seattle

Third-generation Seattleite, historian, journalist, and museum visionary Ron Chew spent more than five decades fighting for Asian American and social justice causes in Seattle.

In this virtual History Café, Chew is joined by PeiPei Sung, a former student intern, turned oral history interviewer, turned exhibit developer under the wings of the Wing Luke Asian Museum family. Sung is currently a designer at MOHAI. Join us in this conversation and hear stories about immigration, activism, community work, and hopes for the future through Chew’s upcoming memoir My Unforgotten Seattle.

Program date: September 16, 2020

History Café: Resilience Past and Present in the Chinatown International District

Seattle’s historic Chinatown-International District (CID) was hit early and hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis, underscoring the history of redlining, racism, and speculative development that have made this diverse community vulnerable to displacement and anti-Asian hate.

However, the CID also has a long legacy of resistance and resilience. Hear from local CID Coalition/#HumbowsNotHotels activists Cynthia Brothers (also of Vanishing Seattle) and Marlon Dylan Herrera, who share reflections on past and present organizing in the CID—including how community members are responding to the inequalities laid bare by COVID-19 through mutual aid and advocacy, to leverage this moment of crisis in support of lasting, transformative change for the neighborhood.

Program date: May 20, 2020

History Café: Puget Sound’s Maritime Highway

From canoes, to the mosquito fleet, to our modern day ferry system, boats have long been a principal means of travel around Puget Sound.

In this talk, based on research from his next book on human and natural history in Puget Sound, David B. Williams highlights how people have spent the last 13,000 years boating this extraordinary waterway.

Program date: April 21, 2020

History Café Audio Archive

Hear past History Café programs, with topics ranging from Seattle through the eyes of its first Chinese resident to the city’s classical music scene.

Syncopated Classic: Rediscovering an Early Seattle Jazz Pioneer

In 1924, Seattle Jazz pioneer Frank D. Waldron created 9 original compositions for his saxophone tutorial book Syncopated Classic. Obscured by time, these works are the earliest archived compositions by a Seattle jazz musician. Greg Ruby, a Seattle jazz musician, unearthed this rare archive and performed Waldron’s work and discussed his life, the times, and importance to Seattle Jazz history at this November 2015 History Café.

The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop

As a prelude to The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop exhibit, Dr. Daudi Abe discussed the Seattle Hip-Hop community, from Seattle’s champion break dance crew, to highly collaborative and diverse performers and DeeJays. Dr. Abe is a professor, writer and historian who has taught classes on culture, race, gender, communication, education, hip-hop and sports, and wrote Emerald Street: A History of Hip-Hop in Seattle 1979-2015.

Uncorking the Past at Seattle's Finntown

Recent archaeological excavation of Seattle’s Smith Cove shantytown, capped by 12 feet of fill in the 1940s, has provided a look at a multi-cultural Prohibition and Depression-era community. During this History Cafe, Alicia Valentino, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation, discuss the artifacts found and this unique story within Seattle’s history.

Event Archive

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