The purpose of any oral history project is, at least, to build a compendium of stories, perspectives, and experiences told by those who lived it. That is this project’s core purpose. We build this compendium semester by semester, with small groups of students from an Ethnographic Methods course at the University of Puget Sound. These students loosely guide interview/conversations to thematic waypoints that the class determines to explore. From that angle, the Salmon Beach Oral History project provides multiple pathways by which the history of this truly unique community can be explored.
The community of Salmon Beach traces its roots back over a hundred years. What started as fishing shacks congregated around a boathouse became weekend and summer camps and cabins. Those cabins became cottages, electricity arrived, and decades of growth and change ensued. Through those decades, cottages grew upward and outward, summer cabins became homes, and the history of the present became more clear. Equally of note, automobiles are a ten minute walk up more than 200 stairs. Those stairs ascend a bluff that constantly threatens property owners. Property comprises a small strip of beach and houses on posts over the tidal zone of Puget Sound. Collective organization of the community is a structural necessity: utilities, the legal framework of ownership, and the management of communal spaces require it.
For the time being, the oral history interviews and other materials are housed here. The process of migrating these materials to the institutional safety of the Collins Library at the University of Puget Sound is under discussion. In both manifestations, this compendium will be publicly available. Anyone interested in exploring the particular experiences of this unique community is welcome.
Andrew Gardner, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Puget Sound, April 2015
The Salmon Beach Oral History project commenced in September of 2014. The curriculum at the University of Puget Sound’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology (SOAN) requires all students to explore the craft and techniques of the interview. By orienting this perennial assignment to the collection of oral history interviews about life — past and present — in the Salmon Beach community, SOAN students are steadily building a substantial archive of knowledge about this fascinating community.