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Monday, December 01, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Web site serves as huge photo album for county

By Maria Gonzalez
Seattle Times staff reporter

Theo Gerontakos, left, and Julie Kerssen were responsible for selecting, researching and captioning historic photos of King County for a Web site hosted by the Museum of History & Industry.
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In the two years Julie Kerssen and Theo Gerontakos have been archiving thousands of historical pictures from throughout King County, a few favorites have emerged.

"The Ballard football players are a personal favorite of mine," Kerssen said, while searching the recently completed King County Snapshots Web site for a 1954 picture of three football players diving for a ball.

Gerontakos likes the 1927 photo of Babe Ruth sitting on a stairway in Seattle and being fed a turkey leg by a group of kids.

Working from a small room at Seattle's Museum of History & Industry, Kerssen and Gerontakos have worked with 12 local historical agencies to name, date, describe and load each of the 12,000 pictures onto the new Web site.

King County Snapshots is the result of a two-year project funded through a federal grant that partnered the local groups. Each agency provided photographs and images, some dating back 150 years.

On the Web

The Web site of King County Snapshots is:

Partners are: Black Heritage Society of Washington State; Eastside Heritage Center; Maple Valley Historical Society; Seattle Museum of History & Industry; Northwest Railway Museum; Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society; Rainier Valley Historical Society; Renton Historical Museum; Shoreline Historical Museum; University of Washington Libraries; White River Valley Museum; Wing Luke Asian Museum

The Web site, which launched a few weeks ago, is a digital photo album of King County's history. It provides key information about the people pictured, the history of the places in the images and the year each picture was taken.

Everyone from students to researchers and the general public can search the Web site for specific people, things, places and events. Each of the pictures shows everyday life in Seattle and surrounding areas.

"It's a real picture of what happened," said Feliks Banel, deputy director of Seattle's Museum of History & Industry, which secured the $325,000 federal grant.

The project has strengthened ties between the 12 historical agencies and created a deeper appreciation within the agencies for their resources.

The Black Heritage Society of Washington State rediscovered its photograph collection, such as its automobile photos dating to 1923.

"It helped open up our eyes to things we didn't realize we had," Chairwoman Jacqueline E.A. Lawson said.

The Big Snow of 1916 at First Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle is among about 12,000 photographs available for viewing online through the new King County Snapshots Web site. The project is funded through a two-year, $325,000 federal grant.
The project gave the Shoreline Historical Museum the incentive to launch its own Web site, an endeavor that would have been too expensive and time-consuming without help from Gerontakos, Kerssen and program manager Rachel Howard.

"It was relatively painless," the Shoreline museum director, Vicki Stiles, said, "where it wouldn't have been if we had tried to do this on our own."

Community members who already have used the Web site have recognized people or places in the pictures and then contacted some of the groups.

"We've heard from new people, or ones we hadn't heard from in a long time," Stiles said.

Receiving more specific information about the thousands of pictures was part of the program's aim.

"It's so nice to have people call about recognizing family members," Lawson said. "Word is getting around."

Maria Gonzalez: 206-464-2449 or


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