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New 'Ignite West Linn' event will highlight local history in short TED talk-style presentations

TIDINGS FILE PHOTO - Ignite West Linn is just the latest offering from the West Linn Historical Society. Last year, the society hosted a 'Radio Hour' play that will return for another act in 2018.If you've spent much time perusing the Internet, you've likely fallen into what might be called the "Wikipedia rabbit hole."

You search for one topic — say, President Barack Obama — and then you see he lived in Indonesia for a time as a child, which leads you to an article about the Pacific Ocean. Before you know it, you're deep into the history of the explorer who named the ocean — and there's no telling how much deeper the rabbit hole will go.

There's a certain joy in leaping haphazardly from topic to topic — a feeling that the West Linn Historical Society hopes to harness in its first "Ignite West Linn: History on Fire" event Jan. 21 at the soon-to-be-open Willamette Ale and Cider House. The concept for the event is based on Ignite Talks, which are similar to TED talks except that each presentation must be exactly five minutes with 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. For Ignite West Linn, a handful of speakers will cover local history topics of their choice.

"We look at it as a fun way to present history, and we're going to have about six speakers on a variety of topics — whatever they want to pick," West Linn Historical Society President Roger Shepherd said.

The idea came from society member Dede Montgomery, who had seen Ignite Talks at several conferences she attended recently.

"Our whole hope is that this is another way for us to do history in a different format that might interest people who might not be drawn to the more traditional ways we do history," Montgomery said. "It's engaging, and I think the more we can have interactive and engaging and fun opportunities, it will enhance our ability not just to share history but get more people involved in the sharing and telling of it."

The hope is that the brevity of Ignite Talks might also attract presenters who would be scared off by something longer and more in-depth.

"It's not an overwhelming amount of content you need to get together," Montgomery said.

The field of presenters is set for the Jan. 21 event — which will run from 2 to 3 p.m. — but the society hopes that this is just the first of many Ignite West Linn gatherings.

"What we'd love to do in the future is have it open to people who want to do it," Montgomery said.

The event will be followed by the the nonprofit organization's annual meeting to review accomplishments from the past year, set goals for the next year and elect new officers. According to Shepherd, there's already plenty on the slate for 2018.

"In February we have a historic fashion show, a brand new event at the McLean House," he said. "And we're bringing back the radio show we did a couple of years ago in March, and Voices from the Past will be in May."

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