Center for Washington Cultural Traditions

The Center for Washington Cultural Traditions (CWCT) announces the launch of its cultural documentation virtual field school. In September 2020, it will welcome its first cohort to learn the art, practice, and ethics of cultural documentation.

The CWCT conducts research and programming to support and advance understanding of the living cultural traditions of Washington State. Cultural traditions—from basket weaving to hip hop—help to tell people’s stories, and are expressions of communities’ identity and heritage. They are rooted in the past and evolve over time, reflecting the evolution of a place or a people. Cultural traditions can tell us is what matters most to people and what’s worth protecting. We are committed to sharing our skills so that communities across the state have the tools necessary to effectively and ethically document their own communities.

Students will learn cultural documentation skills, such as interviewing, audio, video, and photography, as well as how to activate their stories within their communities through community exhibits, gatherings, and events. Fieldwork ethics and accountability to the communities we document will be emphasized and woven throughout.

The Cultural Documentation Field school should appeal to anyone interested in preserving the cultural heritage of their communities. This can include those engaged in grassroots-based community history, journalism, archiving, genealogy and more. It should also appeal to those working in cultural museums, archives, libraries, historical societies and other heritage-related institutions. We hope that the Cultural Documentation Field School will support your ongoing efforts and possibly inspire new initiatives.

Sessions and Schedule 

The cohort will meet twice a month on Saturdays via Zoom from 10AM-12PM, beginning September 12 and ending December 5. Each session will be led by experts in the field and will be presented in conjunction with suggested supplemental reading. Participants will have access to a recording of each class, as well as a private Facebook group for connecting with each other and other resources.

Session 1, Sept 12 | Introduction to Cultural Documentation
Instructors: Langston Wilkins of the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions and Elaine Vradenburgh of Windowseat Media.
This session provides a basic introduction to the practice of cultural documentation. Instructors will offer foundational principles, a history of the field, the functions of cultural documentation and more.

Session 2, Sept 26 | Principals of Project Design
Instructor: Laura Lo Forti, Co-Founder/Story Midwife, Vanport Mosaic
In this interactive, hands-on workshop we will explore the practical and ethical key decisions necessary for building and maintaining a successful community-centered project, and creating a plan  with a deep consideration for collaboration and reciprocity.

Session 3, Oct 10   | Fieldwork Ethics
Gabriel Solis, Texas After Violence Project
This session is an introduction to helpful practices and protocols we have developed over the years at the Texas After Violence Project, a community-based archive and documentary project. Some of these practices and protocols include: creating a basic project blueprint, interviewer-interviewee dynamics, pre-interview communication, trauma-informed interviewing, ongoing consent, post-interview processing, digital archiving, and mitigating harm.

Session 4, Oct 24   | The Art of the Interview
Rob Smith, Welcome to Olympia and Keepsake Audio
This session focuses on planning for and conducting biographical interviews. It covers basic audio recording techniques as well as strategies for getting the most out of your interviews.

Session 5, Nov 7    | Visual Documentation
Michael Maine and Sharon H. Chang
This interactive workshop includes a brief history photographic, video, and multimedia documentation and the technical and social considerations.

Session 6, Nov 21  | Activating Your Stories + Understanding Your Responsibilities to Your Community
Practitioners from a variety of disciplines will join us today to share their experience and insight curating cultural heritage through a variety of programming, including exhibits, festivals, and events. We will discuss the power and purpose of this work, as well as the challenges we face when producing programming for public audiences.

Session 7, Dec 5     | Project Sharing + Reflection
During this final session together, participants will reflect on the process, share their progress on their own projects throughout the fall and consider how to integrate their learning into their practice moving forward.

Registration and Information 

CWCT is offering the virtual field school free of charge. Click HERE register. Space is limited to 15 participants. For more information, visit www.wacultures.org or contact CWCT Director, Langston Wilkins at langston@humanities.org.