Filmmakers Share What History Means to Them in MOHAI Film Competition

In the Field features organizations Humanities Washington partners with across the state to help us advance our mission of sparking conversation and critical thinking using story as a catalyst. This week, we look at the Museum of History & Industry’s second annual “History Is _____” Film Competition.

In the Field features organizations Humanities Washington partners with across the state to help us advance our mission of sparking conversation and critical thinking, nurturing thoughtful and engaged communities across our state.

The Best in Show winner from last year’s “History Is _____” competition.

What does history mean to you?


Who: Museum of History & Industry
Established: 1952
Mission: “MOHAI is dedicated to enriching lives by preserving, sharing and teaching the diverse history of Seattle, the Puget Sound region and the nation.”
Serves: More than 60,000 visitors annually
On the Web:


Twenty-three local filmmakers provided their answers as part of the second annual “History Is _____” Film Competition, put on by the Museum of History & Industry. The program – which received grant support from Humanities Washington – encouraged amateur and professional filmmakers alike to create short films to express what history means to them.

This year’s entries offered diverse answers, ranging from the specific “History is Fat Tuesday Seattle 1977” to the wide-ranging “History is Everything,” and from the nostalgic “History is Heritage” to the future-looking “History is Moving Forward.” They can be seen at upcoming screenings and awards galas at MOHAI (see “YOU CAN GO” box below).

“It’s reassuring to see that people realize that history can be told from many different points of view,” says Helen Divjak, MOHAI’s manager of programs and community engagement. “Yes, we are the history museum for the city of Seattle, but we want to let people know that history belongs to them.”


Vote for the “History Is ____” Viewer’s Choice Award (open until May 11).

YOU CAN GOUpcoming “History Is _____” film competition events, all of which take place at MOHAI, 24th Ave. E., Seattle [directions]:

Screening of entries

When: 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday (May 3)
Cost: Free

• Youth Awards Party
When: 6:30 p.m. May 11, doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
Note: Event includes cupcakes, lemonade and a red carpet

“History Is _____” Awards Gala
When: 7 p.m. May 12, doors open at 6 p.m.
Cost: Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door [tickets].

Divjak says MOHAI picked film as a medium for this competition to prompt people to “think about how film is a window to the past, (and because) here in Seattle it’s also so much of the present,” given the city’s vibrant independent filmmaking scene. To take advantage of the city’s resources, MOHAI partnered with the Northwest Film Forum, Seattle International Film Festival and 911 Media Arts Center for this competition.

With these partners, MOHAI reached out to local community members, especially amateur and youth filmmakers. They offered in-class workshops on filmmaking and organized two youth happy hours with panelists, film screenings, and, of course, food.

Divjak says these programs were meant to give young people “encouragement and a realistic idea of what they can do in the film industry.”

As for the content of “History Is _____,” Divjak says the films are meant to “break down the image of history as top-down” and open up a conversation about the different ways we each see history.

A question for Spark magazine readers: What do you this history is?

1 thought on “Filmmakers Share What History Means to Them in MOHAI Film Competition”

  1. Loved the winner! Thanks for embedding the show. I’ve forwarded it on and put (or tried to!) on the NJCH Facebook page. Hope it gets a lot of traffic.

    Great launch for your Spark. Well done.

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