Interpretive Themes

To assist in the interpretation of the vast, complex, and multi-faceted heritage of our state’s saltwater shores, Maritime Washington has developed a set of interpretive themes.

These concepts will serve as common threads tying together sites and stories from throughout the heritage area. They are a framework and organizational tool for both Maritime Washington and its partners to contextualize individual aspects of our region’s heritage and encourage critical thinking about meanings and relationships between sites and narratives. They will support the development of strategies and opportunities to interpret the region’s many and diverse maritime resources, stories, and experiences. The interpretive themes are part of Maritime Washington’s nationally important story:

From time immemorial, humans have settled along the saltwater coasts of what is today Washington State, supported by the rich maritime resources for food, shelter, spiritual inspiration, trade, and transportation to create diverse and complex communities with stories of local, national, and international significance.

Themes include:

  1. The natural abundance, dramatic landscapes, and geographic diversity of western Washington’s coastal areas have shaped the people of this region: nurturing the continuous presence of indigenous cultures, attracting waves of newcomers, and leading to strong, often contested regional identities and relationships with the water.

    Related topics: Canoe Cultures, Communities Shaped by Water, Water and Recreation
  2. Since time immemorial, Washington’s waterways have fostered movement and connection, creating complex local networks and a gateway to the world, bringing together people, goods, and ideas in collaboration and in conflict.

    Related topics: Voyages of Exploration, Securing Our Shores, Water Highways, Trade and Shipping
  3. The richness of Maritime Washington’s natural resources has long fostered vibrant economies built around the water, but the environment and the lifeways that rely upon it are increasingly at risk.

    Related topics: Working Waterfronts, Natural Resources & Human Impacts

Each of these themes speaks to experiences from time immemorial to present day—reflecting the ties that bind past to present. They are also relevant to the entire Maritime Washington region rather than one specific geographic area. The themes are inherently overlapping and interconnected, with most maritime stories and resources touching on more than one. Rather than creating silos around specific resources and narratives, these interrelated themes are meant to provide a structural starting point for interpretation and provoke further thought.