During the fall of 2015, documentary filmmaker Jill Freidberg met with a host of Central Area residents while working on an oral history on behalf of the Seattle Public Library’s Sharing Our Voices Project. The library’s goal was to explore how Central Area residents are experiencing the significant changes taking place in their neighborhood.  

Through  that project, she saw a rich neighborhood history and heard numerous stories.

Last fall, Jill founded the Shelf Life project to gather and share stories about the neighborhood’s rich history. Vulcan Real Estate, which owns the Red Apple site and has plans to redevelop it into a mixed-use project with retail, affordable, and market rate apartments, donated space for Shelf Life to record the stories in a storefront adjacent to the Red Apple. 

“We value breathing new life and amenities into the neighborhood as well as honoring and preserving the spirit of the community,” said Pearl Leung, external affairs director with Vulcan. “We were pleased to be able to provide space for the Shelf Life project and help capture some of the history that makes the Central Area such a great place to live.” 

A collaboration between local filmmakers, oral historians, librarians, educators, photographers and artists, Shelf Life is funded partially by a King County 4Culture Heritage grant. Central Area residents often stop by to record their stories with Jill, or come to see the space by recommendation of other residents.

“We started gathering and sharing the stories of the people who live and work in the Central Area,” the Shelf Life website says. “Stories about the neighborhood, its history, its struggles, the change it is now experiencing and how residents are weathering that change.”

Since September of 2016, Jill has interviewed more than 30 community members. Their stories paint a picture of resilience and vibrancy in a neighborhood that has been a center for innovation, art and culture. Freidberg’s ultimate goal is to share these stories with the Seattle community as a way to influence how the city grows in the future. 

Edited excerpts of the stories can be found on the Shelf Life website. This summer, the full interviews will be shared during a weekly podcast on Hollow Earth Radio and Rainier Valley Radio. As for the future, Freidberg has begun exploring interactive design models for sharing the stories with the Seattle community. She envisions a mobile exhibit that can be hosted in spaces such as the Seattle Public Library.