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New Diversity in Local History grants program creates 11 paid internship opportunities across WA

Tacoma, WAWashington State Historical Society’s new Diversity in Local History (DLH) grant program awards small grants to heritage organizations to fund paid internships that support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. The first grants were approved in October 2021 for projects beginning in January 2022. Current community college, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as recent graduates can apply for the internships starting November 2, and can find information at or through the organizations receiving grants.

During 2020 and 2021, the Washington State Historical Society (WSHS) conducted a survey of the heritage sector across the state. These 400+ organizations include local history museums, tribal museums and cultural centers, historic gardens and house museums, historic ships, maritime history centers, genealogical societies, online archives, and more. The survey revealed severe economic impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and also that while many of these institutions acknowledge and want to address systemic racism, they are in need of guidance, added capacity, and funding to effectively execute DEI work.

To help meet these needs, the WSHS requested state funds to create a competitive grant initiative supporting nonprofits that preserve and interpret history and heritage for the general public. The resulting Diversity in Local History grant program will serve as a vital vehicle to move organizations toward their DEI objectives, while also providing professional experience for interns to foster diverse talent within the heritage sector.

“The Washington State Historical Society provides mentoring, training, and resources to heritage organizations state-wide. Our DLH grant program enables these organizations to take concrete steps toward addressing institutional bias. We are grateful to the Washington State Legislature for approving our request to fund this program,” said Jennifer Kilmer, director of the WSHS.

In the first grant cycle, 11 organizations will receive awards to fund DEI project internships. “It’s critical that the interns are paid to make those opportunities available to students who can’t – and shouldn’t be expected to – work for free while they gain valuable experience in the field. The interns will increase the capacity of these organizations so they can bolster inclusive practices,” added Kilmer. The DEI projects approved in October range from developing internal policies and inclusive frameworks to creating exhibitions and markers, establishing partnerships, generating public programs, and collections work.

Grants will be distributed on a reimbursement basis, meaning organizations must have sufficient funds on hand to pay the interns regularly and must provide documentation of that payment before receiving grant dollars as reimbursement. The competitive grant process will repeat annually and is open to all non-profits, tribal organizations, and local governmental entities in Washington State who have a heritage-based mission.

“This program serves at the intersection of an organization’s desire to diversify the stories they tell with their capacity to make it happen,” said Andre Jimenez, DEI specialist at WSHS. Jimenez joined WSHS in September to manage the new DLH grant program. His experience includes non-profit grant and scholarship management. Jimenez is currently studying law and policy, and serves as president of the Associated Students of University of Washington Tacoma. He is also a commissioner on the City of Tacoma’s Human Rights Commission.

The 11 local heritage organizations who have been awarded DLH funds in WSHS’s inaugural grant cycle, and their accompanying internship project summaries, include:

Jefferson County Historical Society, Port Townsend, WA, $10,300.00 to audit collections for underrepresented and missing stories, biased descriptive language, and misidentified items. This work will guide the development of a collecting plan that will ensure diverse and inclusive collections.

Highline Heritage Museum, Burien, WA, $9,000.00 to assist in the planning and production of a year-long series of community-partnered events that highlight the history, heritage, and contemporary social justice issues of Highline’s diverse residents.

Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, Olympia, WA, $9,000.00 to develop a community outreach strategy and plan for reaching diverse communities in Olympia with the goal of developing partnered projects and programs. This work will include three or more partnered demonstration projects or programs.

Everett Museum of History, Everett, WA, $7,920.00 to assist in writing DEI policies which will be integrated into the organization’s strategic plan and support the creation of policies for programs, governance, human resources, and operations. This project will also include designing a prototype for exhibits which incorporates the expectation of diversity and inclusion.

The Holocaust Center for Humanity, Seattle, WA, $6,480.00 to develop a DEI Inreach and Implementation Plan. This plan will establish inward-facing, mission-focused DEI goals. The project’s purpose is to help sustainably center the organizational culture around equity to advance DEI in future educational work.

Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center, Wenatchee, WA, $6,480.00 to work with Wenatchee’s Latinx community to gather stories, images, and objects that help the Museum share a holistic view of the community.

City of Lacey Museum, Lacey, WA, $5,616.00 to complete an interpretive marker related to local Black activists Thelma and Nat Jackson. As time allows, the intern will also conduct collections auditing related to Black history in Lacey and the surrounding areas.

Neely Mansion Association, Auburn, WA, $4,320.00 to consult with the Muckleshoot Tribe to plan, research, design and fabricate a new exhibit for the Neely Mansion. As time allows, the intern will also assist in brainstorming future activities, events, or other opportunities to partner with the tribe.

Southwest Seattle Historical Society, Seattle, WA, $3,456.00 to support the research and development of a new exhibit exploring the intersection between Chinese immigrants and white landowners in the Freeport/Milton (now Delridge) neighborhood of West Seattle in the late 19th century.

Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Seattle, WA, $3,437.00 to conduct DEI-focused outreach for the Youth Heritage Project (YHP) with the goal of increasing the racial, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity of student-participants for the July 2022 YHP. This work will broaden the diversity of perspectives among the next generation of our state’s stewards of historic places.

Franklin County Historical Society, Pasco, WA, $9,000.00 to audit collections for underrepresented and missing Latinx stories and develop a collecting plan to ensure inclusive collecting practices in the future. The intern will also curate objects from the existing collection that reflect the Latinx community and create interpretive displays, both physical and digital.

The Washington State Historical Society recognizes that achieving equity is essential to the long-term health of the statewide heritage sector and seeks to support heritage organizations in moving forward with DEI work, from any starting point. Find more information at