Michael Sean Sullivan: Principal at Artifacts Consulting Inc.

My NativeAdVantage:


Michael Sean Sullivan is the principal at Artifacts Consulting Inc., a Tacoma based historic preservation and architectural conservation studio started in 1997. Artifacts has served as architectural conservator for the Washington State Capitol Campus and has provided preservation consulting services to private and public clients throughout the Northwest. Among current project, Artifacts is preparing Historic Structure Reports for the National Historic Landmark Panama Hotel in Seattle’s International District and the Ernest Hemingway House in Ketchum Idaho and an expanded National Register of Historic Places District Nomination for the Washington State Capital Campus. Recently completed projects include the three yearlong rehabilitation of King Street Station in Seattle, landmark designation for Seattle Center and the conduct of a site inventory and context statement for Washington State’s Maritime Heritage Area including Puget Sound, Grays Harbor and the Olympic Peninsula.

Mr. Sullivan is past president of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and served as Western States Vice Chair on the Executive Committee of the Advisors to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Board of Directors at HistoryLink and the Grant Committee for Humanities Washington.

Michael also has been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Washington Tacoma since 1993 teaching Pacific Northwest history and urban studies. He has taught a very popular course on the History of Tacoma for more than twenty years, shaping the way students, planners, storytellers and decision makers view the city of destiny. In his free time Michael makes furniture, writes on history, culture and currently, the influence of the Northwest on detective fiction and film noir.

What’s Your NativeAdVantage:

What do you do best?

Mark Twain said “History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes”. I’m a public historian with an ear and eye for good rhymes, for the way people and events in the past inform and color the present and future. I think collective memory is critical to culture and a sense of community and I love the search for and discovery of the stories, images and objects that trigger memory. While many of the smartest people who ever lived may not still be with us and some of the most important human experiences that ever occurred may not have been in our time, it doesn’t mean they are completely beyond our reach. Wisdom is cumulative and accessible through history and culture.

What makes you the best?

I work and teach in the realm of historic preservation and my most satisfying moments come from finding the connections between story and place. It’s one thing to stand on a corner or stare at a building but what leaves a real mark in the experience is knowing the story that goes with the place. Ask yourself where is the most unforgettable place you have ever been and it will be the story that you remember first.

How will you become the best?

The best historians and storytellers are curious listeners and driven investigators. I try to be both with a sense of humor and human interest.

What are your aspirations?

Personal: I want to participate in the building of culture in a global sense and community at a local level.

Business: I would like to see sustainability and reuse better incorporated into the management of the built environment. We wear and tear down far too many structures in our urban places and we demean the important skilled jobs and work required to creatively prolong the usefulness of well-built buildings. Instead we are continually assembling a disposable environment of shelters and containers without distinction or value. I want to help people make smart decisions about what to keep.

What fascinates you?

Favorite: A good story well told. Glass plate negatives.


Native elders from the Makah people at the far Northwest tip of the continental U.S.


Taos Pueblo, Sullivan’s Pub in Waterville Ireland, Museum of Modern Art Nitrate Film Library in Hamlin, Pennsylvania and Kennecott Mines, Alaska  


Hand made furniture and personally designed hand sewn clothing. Anything printed by letter press.


Audio podcasts, web based mixed media storytelling and classic radio drama.