Shelf Life Community Story Project
Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle's Central District.


Next Steps for Shelf Life


It’s hard to believe, but it has been over two years since Shelf Life got the keys to its little storefront in the Promenade Shopping Center. So much has happened! In that time, we’ve interviewed over 70 community members, provided five free workshops in audio recording and interviewing techniques, thrown countless parties and open houses, hosted three youth art exhibits, and produced a ten-episode podcast!

Shelf Life no longer has a space. That storefront was torn down along with the Promenade Red Apple, last winter. But we’ve been getting lots done where we can. And we have so many ideas for what to do next. We spent all summer asking Central District residents how community stories can serve the neighborhood. We’ve taken that feedback and incorporated it into our next steps. All we need now is the capacity and funding to make those ideas happen.

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Here are a few of the projects that are in the works or on our wishlist.

1) Collaborate with Central District churches, senior centers, barbershops, and beauty salons to continue interviewing residents while also sharing Shelf Life stories in those spaces. We’d like to install maps and rotary dial phones that play stories in neighborhood barbershops and beauty salons.

2) Collaborate with the UW School of Library and Information Studies to properly catalog and organize all Shelf Life interviews and photographs, to prepare the material to become a public archive at Seattle Public Library.

3) Create a “People’s History of the Central District” non-fiction graphic novel series, using stories from Shelf Life interviews, and making the books available to Seattle schools and libraries.

4) Create an Anti-Racist Ambulatory Book Club and Walking Tour Series. The goal of this project would be to use Shelf Life stories, books, walking tours, and facilitated discussions to help new residents, developers, and policymakers evaluate and interrupt the behaviors and narratives they perpetuate that make it hard for the CD’s historic residents to stay put, feel safe, and thrive. A cohort of new residents, developers, and policy makers would read a couple of books (Quintard Taylor’s The Forging of a Black Community, Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law), then participate in Central District walking tours while listening to Shelf Life stories. Finally, they would participate in a series of discussions facilitated by members of the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites, where they would hopefully reflect on what they’ve learned and unpack the behaviors and narratives they perpetuate that make it hard for historic residents of the CD to stay put. feel safe, and thrive.

5) Create a Shelf Life installation that could be sited on different campuses (UW, SU, SCCC) and that uses maps, photos, VR, and audio recordings to engage students in thinking about their city and the neighborhood that shaped it (the CD)!