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WSU to debut online resource for touring state’s most iconic buildings

T.A. Leonard Barn, 1917, Whitman Co., Washington. Photograph by Tom J. Bartuska.

What are Washington’s most representative works of built environment?

Washington State University’s Center for the Arts and Humanities and the School of Design and Construction (SDC) will introduce a new online resource for exploring this question when they host “Constructing Washington State: SAH Archipedia and New Directions in Digital Scholarship” on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m. in the SPARK Building atrium on the WSU Pullman campus.

The free, public presentation will launch the Washington-based content for “SAH Archipedia,” an online encyclopedia of the U.S. built environment, containing histories, photographs and maps for more than 20,000 structures, buildings and places.

Organized by the Society of Architectural Historians and the University of Virginia Press, and funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, “SAH Archipedia” pushes the boundaries of digital research and collaboration in the humanities and the built environment.

Content about Washington features photographs and narrative from an interdisciplinary group of 25 historians, architects, librarians, historic preservation professionals and cultural resource management specialists. The work was coordinated by J. Philip Gruen, associate professor in SDC at WSU Pullman, and Robert R. Franklin, assistant director of the Hanford History Project at WSU Tri-Cities.

Important contributions to the project came from WSU students, faculty, emeriti faculty, staff and alumni as well as faculty and staff from the University of Washington, Whitworth University and Gonzaga University. Nearly every county in Washington is represented in addition to a range of building types—from skyscrapers and stadiums to schools and single-family homes.

Many of the chosen sites in Washington illustrate the intimate relationship between the built environment and the state’s spectacular natural landscape. A fruit-packing warehouse in Wenatchee, a cultural center in Suquamish, coke ovens in Wilkeson and a parking garage in Spokane can reveal as much about the culture and history of Washington as the Space Needle and the capitol campus in Olympia, Gruen said.

“The state’s history and its peoples are so extraordinarily rich, you have to try to tell as many stories as you can,” he said.

Bringing such stories to the widest audience possible is part of the Center for Arts and Humanities’ core mission and part of WSU’s land-grant tradition. To that end, the center also invited librarians from around the region to a hands-on workshop for exploring integration of the Archipedia into library and classroom instruction, with a particular focus on the built environment of eastern Washington, Whitman County and Pullman.

The workshop will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Faculty Innovation Studio 102 in the SPARK building and led by Archipedia contributor Amanda C. Roth Clark, library director and associate dean of special programs at Whitworth University.

The encyclopedia is both a powerful digital tool and “a valuable resource for vernacular architecture, which may be otherwise underappreciated or neglected,” Clark said. “I’m excited to showcase our local environment.”

Librarians interested in attending the free workshop must register by email to to ensure sufficient space and instructional materials.

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