Ships was a common theme in some recent requests from ArchiveGrid visitors for help with their research. Although we don’t provide reference services, we were able to look in our system for online finding aids (documents that describe collections belonging to an archive) and contact information to offer as leads for our users.
One such finding aid was for a collection of the Pacific Outfitting Company at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. Hopefully in it lies clues to the age of a small metal tray that a collector of antique fishing lures and tackle who e-mailed us found. A stamp on the back of the tray identifies Pacific Outfitting Company of Spokane, Wash., as its maker, and the illustration on the front depicts a ship run aground. According to the collector, the tray is a perfect addition to his collection and he wants to learn about its history and age.
Here is what the finding aid reveals. Managed by Max Lipman and then his son Herbert Lipman, Pacific Outfitting Company sold apparel from 1907 to 1991. It was one of the first companies in Seattle to organize a union and it remained open during the Great Depression while other neighboring Pike Street retail businesses closed. Pacific Outfitting Company later opened stores in Bellevue and Spokane; Spokane is what the tray’s stamp reads. Finding out when that store opened may help date the tray.
How would a user who discovered this finding aid in ArchiveGrid see the contents of the collection it describes in order to find this out? Each search result includes a link to the archive where the collection is housed, so users can easily find and connect with a staff person for help.
In this case, there are more reasons than pinning down the date of the tray to contact the Museum of History and Industry to see other materials in this collection. Reading the finding aid reveals a deeper story about a family business and how its local involvement fueled its success. How did the Lipman’s keep a family business open and thriving for almost a century? What were they like and what leadership qualities did they exhibit? Answers might lie in a transcript the collection has of a 1983 interview with Herbert Lipman that provides background on the family and the history of the store. As the current economy leaves many people and businesses in a state of transition and uncertainty, this primary source may contain some sound inspiration.