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Modeling a vision of culture

The framework of history provides an excellent introduction to the topic of culture.

Its role is recognized by the Washington State Historical Society (WSHS). The society declares in a mission statement that it wishes to inspire all people to make history a part of their lives by presenting exhibits, programs and publications that bring history alive. That includes collecting materials that reveal stories of Washington and its people, educating students of all ages, encouraging the heritage activities of others and fostering a sense of identity and community.

On Sept. 27, as part of Smithsonian magazine’s nationwide Museum Day, a friend and I made plans to visit the Washington State History Museum in downtown Tacoma, proudly opened by the WSHS in 1996.

An engraved wall immediately inside the main door informs visitors. It’s a long list of neighbors, organizations and individuals united in the belief that such an institution is a necessary resource for all people in Washington state.

Among these names is that of editor, publisher and historian Barbara Krohn, who most recently was the subject of my last column (“Lifelong bonus from a model career woman,” Sept. 24).

Krohn’s own pioneer heritage was a matter of considerable pride and interest. She served three one-year terms as president of the Pioneer Association of the State of Washington (PASW) and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation (WTHP).

She served on the boards of the Association of King County Historical Organizations (AKCHO), Fort Vancouver Historical Society of Clark County, and the board of the Pioneer Association.

In 1985, she was honored by the WTHP as Outstanding Preservationist in Washington State. In 1999, Humanities Washington (HW) tapped Krohn for its Humanities Washington Award.

The group, formerly known as the Washington Commission for the Humanities, is the only statewide organization dedicated to the humanities.

Specifically, Humanities Washington provides programs that nurture creativity, promote dialogue and spark critical thinking. The humanities help people broaden their perspectives and become active participants in their communities.

Residents of Federal Way may recognize the titles of some programs sponsored statewide by Humanities Washington that include but are not limited to: Motheread/Fatheread, Bedtimes Stories, the Poet Laureate, Inquiring Mind, Washington exhibits and Smithsonian “Museum on Main Street” exhibits in rural communities, as well as Quick Grants and Project Grants for individuals and organizations.

Krohn is a lifelong member of Humanities Washington. She served as president of the Washington Commission for the Humanities, and is a founder and three-year president of Friends of the Humanities. The Barbara Krohn Giving Circle is named after her.

Aside from the donation at the Washington State History Museum noted earlier, a substantial gift that can be enjoyed by all state residents occurred in December 2003. Krohn donated 20 acres of land along the Washougal River to the Columbia Land Trust for future preservation and conservation.

Colleague and confidant Jeff Christensen provides not only the telling details surround this donation, but an insightful sketch of the donor herself as described in an e-mail sent Aug. 3.

He wrote: “One of Barbara’s favorite and most used words was ‘devoir,’ a French word for ‘duty.’ Barbara has spent much of her life personifying that word in many situations and ways.”

One of many examples is her stewardship of acreage founded in the late 1880s by her grandfather Frederick Krohn. This land was not only the original home for her pioneer family but, during the Great Depression, when her family lost everything, it became the home for Krohn and her parents.

After her father’s death, Christensen said Krohn became guardian of that land, purchasing pieces of the homestead inherited and put up for sale by extended family, all in an effort to keep it whole and protected from development and piecemeal sale.

She held on to that land for 50 years, then made arrangements for it to become a part of a nature conservancy group’s portfolio to assure that it would remain as much as it was when first homesteaded and protected into the future.

Noted American writer, lecturer and cultural visionary Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) once said: “One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life and follow that.”

I submit that the path gloriously blazed by Barbara Krohn is one such beacon.

Federal Way resident Mizu Sugimura: mizu.s@comcast.net

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