Every so often I remind people that we want any documents, newspapers, web page links, sound recordings, VHS Tapes, Pan Am cocktail napkins, etc. Literally anything which has anything to do with the airport.
For all intents and purposes, information you cannot find does not exist. (What’s that old line about the tree falling in the forest?) And people do not realize that history is rapidly being lost in spite of all the Wikipedias and Googles.
Just a few examples:
- The Seattle P.I., the paper which did by far the most stories on both the third runway and second runway expansions has never properly digitized records because the folded before they got that chance. The Seattle Times is not much better. There are almost no searchable stories from even the nineties and the third runway.
- And even current web sites can be problematic. For example, radio station KUOW, arguably the largest news department in the region, recently re-jiggered their web site and sent thousands of links, including those involving reporting on Sea-Tac, off into oblivion. Maybe they’ll fix them. Maybe not. Think about Netflix: If you search for a list of ‘action movies’, how can you know that they stopped stocking your favorite movie two years ago because their agreement with Warner Bros. expired? We all assume that ‘searching’ across trusted providers is comprehensive. It’s not. It’s only what they spent the money to keep going. If the people who now keep paying for web sites relevant to the Third Runway decide to take down their sites? That information could be lost forever. We need to get them archived before that happens.
- Although many public agencies, such as the airport cities, have converted many of their recent documents to PDFs, this does not guarantee that they are searchable. Adobe Acrobat documents are often not created in a searchable format, which means that they are as useless as trying to do a textual search of a series of photographs.
This can be devastatingly inaccurate if you are searching a government web site and don’t realize that their ‘search window’ will likely not show you all the documents they have on a given topic. Sadly, the only way to get a proper response from governmental web sites is to do it the old-fashioned way: via Public Records Request.
- And speaking of photographs, many important documents have been photographed, but never tagged with the proper keywords (like you do on Social Media.) The same goes for sound recordings and videos. You may have the smoking gun that sends FAA managers to jail, but if its on a VHS tape labeled, ‘home movies’, who will ever know?
A large part of the work we’re trying to do is put all this stuff on-line and make it searchable, but also to curate it, which is just librarian-speak for making sure the most important bits are the easiest to find. Libraries and newspapers do this every day–they decide which stories belong on the front page and which belong in Section F. They prioritize. And so do we. As of July, 2018, we’ve already scanned over 30,000 pages of hard copy. Have we actually had time to -read- all that stuff? Well, -no-. But maybe -you- will! (As part of our curatorshipliness, we’re still working on a way to organise what we have. Which is why we also suggest that if you can’t find it on the menu, contact us! so we can dive into all the stuff you -can’t- see on our Resources page.
The Answer Is Out There
We are certain that somewhere in all the millions of pages of documents and thousands of hours of sound and video recording over the past fifty years, there are ‘smoking guns’; clues which we need in order to meaningfully negotiate with the Port and FAA. But as they say, we don’t know what we don’t know. Unless and until we find all of it, and then sift through all of it using modern techniques, it will only be dumb luck if anyone finds those key bits of information. That’s where you come in.
So, if you have any of the above materials (remember: that is paper documents, newspapers, web page links, sound recordings, VHS Tapes, etc.) and we do mean any, and would like to make sure they will be available to anyone who wants to do research? Please contact us!
And by the way, remember: We don’t need them permanently. We simply want to take a few days to make digital copies that can be placed on-line in a best-practices searchable form.