This guest editorial comes from Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold and Director of the Office of Film and Music, Kate Becker.
It’s safe to say Scarecrow Video is a Seattle icon, but few people are aware of the full significance of their collection. Incredibly, their vast video library houses more items than Netflix’s digital and DVD collections combined, and they carry truly unique items other venerable institutions, like the Library of Congress, do not. Items entering their collection remain there indefinitely. Scarecrow’s collection expands each year, allowing them to function as a critical resource for our shared cultural history—past and present.
Scarecrow continues to bring in films from all over the world, which helps enhance racial equity—a key initiative of the City. Availability of stories from other cultures gives us an important tool for empathy building. Further, a collection of this size allows for the multiplicity of voices within our own culture to have an outlet, and for the film arts to play a role in striving toward full equity for all.
As civic leaders, our first commitment is to the community we serve. Here, too, Scarecrow proves a valuable resource. With a robust section dedicated to housing the works of local filmmakers, these films give others a glimpse into the artistic soul of Seattle. With Seattle rapidly growing and changing, these films also serve as time capsules of our local history and environment.
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Scarecrow Video is their accessibility. Often collections of this size and importance are sequestered from the public, or only allowed limited access. Scarecrow has made a commitment to allowing full accessibility of their catalogue, so everyone has the chance to experience it (as their 140,000 rental transactions in 2016 account).
For almost 30 years, Scarecrow Video has been a touchstone for many Seattleites, and it has remained dynamic enough to endure through the many changes this city has seen, even becoming a non-profit to ensure its survival. No other city in America can boast having such a unique and important collection fully accessible to their residents. They are truly caretakers of our shared culture, history and film arts, and undeniably a Seattle institution.