Technology provides a unique way to share local history

| By Karen Larsen |

Have you ever passed by a historic site, a viewpoint or other place of interest and wished that there were more information available?

Leisurely travelers who pass through the small town of Douglas, and notice the Historic Douglas Church may easily have this feeling.

Who were the people who started this church? When was it built, and is it still in use? What was this little community like in times past? What was it like to grow up here, and to attend this country church? Who has kept the church in such good condition?

Such travelers now have a new opportunity to learn more through a Listening Post Network, set up by the Initiative for Rural Innovation and Stewardship (IRIS) Gathering Our Voice program.

The Listening Post Network can be accessed in three ways: by scanning the QR code found in front of the church, by calling (509) 343-0599 or by accessing the Gathering Our Voice website at www.gatheringourvoice.org/listening-post. The different ways of linking in to the Listening Post Network provide a variety of different information depending on the constraints of the electronic device. The website has the most comprehensive information, including a timeline of the Douglas Church, photos and sound bytes.

IRIS coordinator Nancy Warner said that most of the information about the Douglas Church was gathered about a year ago when IRIS worked with Douglas Community Historical Association members to compile historical information and photos and to record interviews of people who had first hand memories of the church’s history. Warner chose short (under 90 seconds) pieces from the interviews to be featured on the Listening Post.

“We have a lot of content,” Warner said, “The Listening Post provides a way to share snippets of that content.”

Stories placed on the Douglas Church Listening Post include stories of building the church (told to elders by their parents), memories of growing up attending the church and the story of how it was renovated by the Douglas Community Historical Association in 2006. Words from interviews with John Ruud, Jim Danielson, Paul Hinderer, Eva Williams, Myrna Regan, Robert Mittelstaedt and Walt and Marilyn Gearhart are all featured on the Listening Post.

The Listening Post in Douglas is one of seven now operating in North Central Washington. Other sites include the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center, Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center, Entiat Ranger Station, the city of Rock Island, Mansfield Museum and TwispWorks.

Warner said that she is anticipating that a year from now there will be at least 30 Listening Posts scattered throughout North Central Washington.

The purpose of the posts is to enhance the mission of IRIS, which is to “foster sustainable rural communities in North Central Washington by gathering and sharing success stories that enhance a sense of belonging, inspire action, and build community.”

“It’s using the latest technology to deliver stories,” Warner said of the Listening Posts.

The posts will provide feedback on how many people are accessing them and the area codes of the phones which call in.

The Listening Post Network started out with a grant to IRIS of $10,000 from the Icicle Fund Museum Initiative. Site managers from each Listening Post, in this case the Douglas Community Historical Association, also contribute financially to make the network work.

Warner said that her goal is to get more and more young people involved in producing the Listening Post content. As young people get involved, they will get not only hands on technical experience, but also a sense of ownership in the telling of local history. “Technology is a really great way to involve young people in the stories,” Warner said.

Warner has written a “recipe” for those interested in founding a new Listening Post. This is available by contacting her at irisncw@gmail.com.