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Consider Washington's history through forward-facing topics that are relevant today. Changing exhibitions are on the fifth floor, and the Great Hall of Washington History is on the third floor. 

Exhibitions are generously supported by presenting sponsors The Norcliffe Foundation and South Sound Magazine.

Washington State History Museum is temporarily closed to the public in response to the COVID-19 virus. Staff are available (see contacts here). 

Votes for Women will open shortly after our staff are able to begin working in the museum again. We are extending that exhibition through November 8, 2020, to allow more opportunity to enjoy this creative interactive exhibition! 

We look forward to engaging with our communities again soon. Please check back for updates. 

Current featured exhibitions - click for more:  

 

NWCS Spring Show 2020: Celebrating the Suffrage Centennial
On view through November 8, 2020

NWCS square Lisa SheetsThe Washington State History Museum is proud to host thisexhibition of artworks created for the Suffrage Centennial Celebration by the Northwest Collage Society (NWCS). You can see the works online now, and when the museum reopens post-pandemic, come see these wonderful works in person in the Great Hall of Washington History.

The exhibition is comprised of twenty-four original collages, created by members of NWCS. The collages celebrate historic and current women changemakers in Washington, while also highlighting Washington State's role in the national suffrage movement. Other themes that you may find in the artworks are that of gender equality and the importance of suffrage in empowering and advancing women in society.

See the full NWCS exhibition online.

The exhibition was juried by the Washington State History Museum’s Director of Audience Engagement, MaryMikel Stump.

About the Northwest Collage Society: The NWCS provides a forum for the exchange of ideas among members through bi-monthly meetings, which include presentations by local artists or similar programs, workshops, annual retreats, opportunities to enter juried and non-juried exhibitions, circulation of an online newsletter and other publications, and recognition of members’ accomplishments.

Image credits: Top of page, Yesler (detail), Kudra Migliaccio, collage, 2020. Above: Hero: Ida B. Wells, Lisa Sheets, collage, 2020.

Votes for Women exhibition logo

 

Votes for Women: 100 Years and Counting
Opening post-pandemic, on view through November 8, 2020

Washington women led the way! The Washington State Historical Society’s exhibition, Votes for Women: 100 Years and Counting, is an intriguing look at the history of the women’s suffrage movement. Focusing on both the national story and our state’s story, this exhibition explains how Washington women contributed to the eventual ratification of the 19th Amendment. It is a vibrant celebration of female achievements in politics and society. 

This exhibition invites visitors to learn by turning the galleries into an immersive game focused on women and voting rights. Learn the who, what, where, why and why not of Washington's suffrage battle. Find out who could legally cast a ballot and who could not during the history of the on-again-off-again vote for women. Journey through an interactive timeline, voting at key spots along the way, to understand the importance of voting to our society and how women’s suffrage has impacted and affected our nation over time. You’ll come out knowing the names of those  who fought for this basic constitutional right, and you’ll appreciate your right to vote as never before!

Unforgiving waters
 

Unforgiving Waters: Shipwrecks of the Pacific Northwest
On view through May 31, 2020

The Pacific Northwest is a place of rocky beaches and shifting sands, of high winds and raging seas. Its geography is beautiful, but dangerous. Waterways have served as the lifeline for people of coastal regions, a center of commerce but also, at times, a place of great tragedy.

Over two thousand shipwrecks rest at the bottom of Northwest waters. Each one has its own story of stormy weather, fateful catastrophe, or simple human failing. Many of the objects in this exhibition were plucked from the remains of ships. What we know about these wrecks varies and is sometimes dependent on the accounts of people who survived, few of whom traveled in lower class surroundings. In some cases, history has been inferred by rescuers and researchers. Mystery yet remains for many shipwrecks about what happened to a ship or why it went down. We can still learn much from the objects and stories that were recovered.

Ordinary Bicycle

Collections Selections: The Not-So-Ordinary 
On view through October 11, 2020

See a selection of historic bicycles from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, wheeled out from the Historical Society's collections. These bicycles were commonly called "ordinary bicycles" or "penny farthings." They have a connection to suffrage, too; can you guess what that might be? Visit and find out more.

 

David Bacon full size



In Washington's Fields: Photographs by David Bacon 
On view through May 10, 2020

David Bacon is a photojournalist, author, activist, and organizer. Much of his work focuses on farm labor issues. While the people in his photographs are integral to the process of putting food on tables throughout the country, their daily lives are often unseen. This selection of photographs and narrative panels conveys the stories of the people working in farm fields in central and western Washington and their fight for worker's rights'.


Permanent Exhibits

The Great Hall

Our largest exhibit at the Washington State History Museum, The Great Hall of Washington History is a walk through time. This year-round space showcases some of our earliest history with the Clovis Points and a variety of artifacts from Native American civilization and culture, and explains the progression through statehood including industrialization, the war and post-war eras, women's suffrage, immigration and migration, and more. Allow at least two hours to fully absorb the material in the Great Hall of Washington History.
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History Lab

The History Lab Learning Center engages visitors with interactive exhibits featuring historical concepts such as Time, Place, Viewpoint, Exploration, and Precedent. In the learning center, visitors of all ages are encouraged to use the Tools of the History Trade (artifacts, ephemera, books and periodicals, people, maps, and images) to think like detectives in search of evidence. The History Lab exhibit is on the fifth floor of the History Museum.

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Model Railroad

Don your conductor's cap and climb aboard the History Museum's own model railroad. Watch history being made as the Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers club continues construction on the 1,800-square-foot permanent layout depicting the rail lines from Tacoma's Point Defiance Park to the Stampede Pass tunnel in the Cascades. Join us when we celebrate model trains with our annual Model Train Festival.

Learn more ...