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Washington Rural Heritage


Washington Rural Heritage is a collection of historic materials documenting the early culture, industry, and community life of Washington State. The collection is an ongoing project of small, rural libraries and partnering cultural institutions, guided by an initiative of the Washington State Library (WSL). The initiative provides the infrastructure and training to both digitize and serve unique collections to a widespread audience.

The mission of Washington Rural Heritage is to:

  • Enable small and rural libraries to create digital collections of unique items that highlight institutional holdings and tell the stories of their communities.
  • Make these items accessible online to a wide audience.
  • Provide long-term storage and preservation of digital masters created by WRH participants.

This mission is in line with the larger mission of the Washington State Library to "ensure that Washingtonians have access to the information they need today and the history of Washington tomorrow."

The Project

On-location large-format scanning. Whitman County Library, 2007.

A large number of small and rural public libraries (defined as serving a population of less than 25,000) and other heritage institutions in Washington are in possession of unique, irreplaceable material highlighting the history of their communities. In the majority of instances, these institutions lack staffing, expertise, and resources to make these treasures widely available to the public. The infrastructure to ensure long-term access to online collections is often a major stumbling block for small institutions.

The Washington Rural Heritage initiative shifts focus from funding repetitive projects at individual institutions, to a collaborative model which centralizes infrastructure and supports community projects at the local level.  The initiative provides participating libraries and their partners with training in various aspects of digital project development and management including: selection, copyright research, digital imaging, metadata creation, use of digital asset management software, evaluation & assessment, etc. Initiative staff develop and maintain project standards, guidelines, and best practices.

Washington Rural Heritage also provides on-location services to participating institutions. Traveling staff assist participating institutions with everyday scanning issues, provide specialized scanning on-location (e.g., scanning of-large format items), and train participants in-person.

Collaboration is a critical aspect of the initiative. Identification, research, and cataloging of objects is achieved in a collaborative manner, taking place on-site, within each participating community. Collaboration is encouraged between public libraries and strategic partners such as historical societies, museums, tribes, government agencies, schools, and local subject experts. 

Hudson Bay Company Blockhouse. Stevens County Heritage Collection

The Collections

Washington Rural Heritage collections are made up of items of historical and cultural significance. These include: old photographs, historical texts, memorabilia & ephemera, scrapbooks, maps, artwork, objects & artifacts, etc.  Video and audio files (e.g., oral histories, lectures, interviews) are also part of the online collection. Many of these collections include unique historical resources not previously available in digital format.

The physical collections are housed locally by owning institutions around the state, while the digital collections are housed by the Washington State Library (WSL), a division of the Office of the Secretary of State (OSOS). 

Participating institutions select, scan, and describe items which tell the stories of their communities.

Collections are aggregated into a statewide digital repository—improving access to items across the state, ensuring better consistency across the collections, and providing researchers with the choice to search across multiple collections or limit searches within one collection.  WSL creates a customized landing page for participating institutions, allowing for better integration with their own web presence and online collections or catalogs.

Copyright Considerations

Washington Rural Heritage items that fall under copyright protection remain under copyright protection. The Washington State Library is not interested in gaining copyright ownership or selling copies of the images. All requests for use or reproduction of the images will be referred to the owning institutions. 

In order to preserve digital surrogates and provide long-term access to the collection, the Washington State Library obtains a release from owning institutions to preserve high-resolution copies in long-term “dark” storage, and to provide access to low-resolution (i.e., publication and thumbnail copies) online.

Visit the Washington Rural Heritage legal page for a full copyright statement. 

Advisory Committee

Advisory committee members are made up of volunteers from various institutions (museums, libraries, historical societies, tribes) with expertise in digital collections and repositories, as well as representatives from the established target audiences (historians/researchers, k-12 educators, genealogists, etc.) Committee members will advise on aspects of the project including establishing metadata guidelines, collection selection, insight on use, and discuss other aspects of the project.

Feedback We encourage your feedback. If you have comments or suggestions, please use our feedback form.

Funded in part by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

Washington Rural Heritage home

Evan Robb, Project Manager
(360) 704-5228

Ross Fuqua, Digital Projects Librarian
(360) 570-5587


Washington Rural Heritage News





Contributing Institutions

More than 60 cultural institutions have participated in the Washington Rural Heritage initiative to date.  Explore the links below to see their contributions.

Asotin County Library
Asotin County Museum
Battle Days Museum
Benton County Museum & Historical Society
Bleyhl Community Library
Blue Mountain Heritage Society
Cathlamet Blanche Bradley Public Library
Cedonia Community Church
Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, WWU
City of North Bonneville
Columbia County Rural Library District
Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum
Ellensburg Public Library
Enumclaw Plateau Historical Society
Enumclaw Public Library
Everson Public Library, WCLS
Foothills Historical Society and Museum
Garfield County Museum
Guy Albion Historical Society & Museum
Historic Downton Prosser Association
Island Library, WCLS
Initiative for Rural Innovation and Stewardship (IRIS)
Karolina Lorz Foundation
Kettle Falls Public Library
Kiona-Benton City Historical Society
Libraries of Stevens County
Lopez Island Historical Society
Lopez Island Library
McCoy Valley Museum, Oakesdale Historical Society
Metalines Community Libray, POCLD
Mid-Columbia Libraries, Benton City Branch
Mid-Columbia Libraries, Connell Branch
Mid-Columbia Libraries, Prosser Branch
North Central Regional Library, Omak Library
Northport Historical Society
North Bonneville Community Library, FVRL
Odessa High School
Odessa Historisches Museum
Odessa Public Library
Orcas Island Historical Museum
Orcas Island Public Library
Palouse Empire Fair
R.E. Powell Museum
Ritzville Library District #2
Rosalia Visitors Resource and Interpretive Center
Roslyn Public Library
Roy Chatters Newspaper and Printing Museum
San Juan Historical Museum
San Juan Island Library District
San Juan Island National Historic Park
Sedro-Woolley Museum
Sedro-Woolley Public Library
Stevenson Community Library, FVRL
Tacoma Public Library
Tekoa Museum
Town of Friday Harbor
University of Washington Libraries
Vashon College
Vashon Library, KCLS
Vashon-Maury Heritage Association
Wahkiakum County Historical Society
Washington State Archives
Washington State University
Whatcom Museum of History & Art
Whitman County Library