Two island organizations are collaborating on an exhibit featuring students and activities of Langley High School during the turbulent 1960s.
The multimedia virtual reunion at the old high school on Camano Avenue is highlighted by oral histories on video and newly-digitized class photographs. While the exhibit itself is a work in progress, Island County Historical Society and South Whidbey Community Center officials expect to have a formal opening event in late April.
“We were amazed at the almost immediate response to casual notices asking people to participate in the oral histories,” said archivist Cassie Rittierodt of the Historical Society.
“After a recent conversation, (Community Center Artistic Coordinator) Jesse Levesque and I realized we could expand from digitizing class photographs to include artifact displays and video recordings.”
Rittierodt said the Historical Society’s previous archivist Sara Aldrich initially had the idea of using clear plastic to replace some metal doors on the old lockers to display high school artifacts. Art technician Silvan Goette built cedar display stands to fit in the lockers which line the main hall.
The Community Center occupies the buildings which remained when a new high school and middle school were built on Maxwelton Road. Almost two dozen agencies share space in the old school complex.
South Whidbey School District still owns the properties. Community Center Director Gail LaVassar heads the nonprofit organization Readiness to Learn, the agency responsible for bringing like-minded entities together on campus to preserve the history and orchestrate community-focused activities.
“We’re always getting a lot of questions about student and school history,” said Levesque. “So we decided to expand into a full scale ‘where are they now’ exhibit to respond to that high level of interest.”
Using his photography and art skills, Community Center Custodian Randall Haller is primarily responsible for recording the oral histories on video. “This is a classic building, full of family history and remembrances,” he commented.
Rittierodt and Historical Society Director Rick Castellano are doing additional oral history recordings.
Levesque said the exhibit is an important community partnership, growing from the Historical Society’s project to convert the class photographs to digital format. Eventually, the Community Center hopes to have a dedicated historical space in the building.
Parts of the exhibit are already in place, and more items will be added over time. There is no charge to visit the sustaining exhibit, in the main hall, during regular weekday business hours.
“People just like to reminisce, to talk about personal history, their experiences, their music, their cars, their homes, and their neighborhoods,” said Rittierodt. “Everyone is very excited about bringing all of this together in the virtual reunion from just one decade.”
Once the exhibit for the 1960s is launched, she said, the Historical Society and Community Center will expand to cover more of the history of the school and the community.