Events & Programs

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See all upcoming events in the Explore It! quarterly newsletter. 
Unless noted otherwise, programs are included with museum admission, or FREE to WSHS Members. For more information, contact Molly Wilmoth at 253-798-5926 or   

Third ThursdayWA My Home third thurs cropped
December 20
FREE admission from 3:00-8:00 PM

Special exhibitions on view: Collections Selections: Jacob Lawrence, Two Centuries of Glass, Sleight of Hand: Magic and Spiritualism in the Twentieth Century

Grab last minute holiday gifts that are sure to please at The Goods at the Museum, too! 

Third Thursday is generously supported by Columbia Bank.

23rd Annual Model Train FestivalModel Train Festival events page
Friday, December 21, 2018 through Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Regular admission applies, FREE for WSHS members. 
Promotional coupons and discounts are not valid during Model Train Festival.

History and holiday magic unite at the Washington State History Museum during the Annual Model Train Festival in December. Bring your family, friends, and the railroad enthusiasts in your life to see this showcase of the most spectacular and detailed model railroad scenes in the Pacific Northwest, including the largest permanent model train layout in Washington! New this year: a trail of train related artifacts in the Great Hall. 

Take a free photo with Santa Claus! The jolly gentleman will be here to visit with children on December 21, 22 and 23 from 11:00 AM–3:00 PM. We’ll capture this special moment on an iPad and the pictures will be instantly e-mailed to you. Let the magical holiday memories commence!

December 23 is also Teen Tix day!
Admission is just $5.00 for teens when you show your Teen Tix card!

See all the details at

The 2018 Model Train Festival is made possible in part by the Port of Tacoma and South Sound Magazine.

Member Appreciation Eventlobby full for event
Friday, December 21, 5:30-8:30 PM
FREE for WSHS members!

Washington State Historical Society is excited to show our appreciation for our members with a special festive evening. Members can have the run of the museum on the first night of the annual Model Train Festival! Join us for delicious treats and fun and be ready for special surprises, too.

Kindly RSVP to  


Family Saturdays at the History Museum: Coast Salish Culturefamily
Saturday, January 12, 1:00-3:00 PM
Included with museum admission, FREE for members

Explore how history connects us all during our Family Saturdays. Join a museum facilitator and other families in our galleries to learn about artifacts on view, then make something of your own. 
This month’s Family Saturday features Coast Salish culture and objects, including bentwood boxes, drums, and more.
Activities are designed for children ages 4-12 but all ages are welcome!

Scholarly SelectionsTacoma Buddhist Temple
The Story of Sunya Pratt, a 1930s British Woman Ordained in the Tacoma Buddhist Temple
Third Thursday, January 17, 6:30-8:00 PM

FREE and open to the public
Join Associate Director of the UW Tacoma Library Justin Wadland to discuss this little-known story of service, immigration, and cultural exchange.

On April 23, 1936, Reverend Sunya Pratt was ordained as a minister at the Tacoma Buddhist Temple. Local and national newspapers described the ceremony, calling Rev. Pratt the “First White Buddhist Priestess,” a label that later scholars have called into question. Yet at a time when few Westerners converted to Buddhism, let alone became teachers, Rev. Pratt joined a sangha--or spiritual community--of Japanese Americans. Over the next 50 years, she devoted herself to the community and became an important leader for Jodo Shinshu Buddhists in Tacoma and the Puget Sound region. This talk will share a research project in process that explores the life and legacy of Rev. Pratt within the context of the wider history of Tacoma and American Buddhism.

Third Thursday Eveningmuseum
Thursday, January 17, 3:00-8:00 PM
FREE admission 3:00-8:00 PM

Enjoy all of our exhibitions and a free Scholarly Selections lecture too!


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day CelebrationRuby Bridges
Monday, January 21, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
FREE and open to the public

The museum is free and open to the pubic all day in honor of Dr. King. See a small panel exhibition detailing Dr. King’s visit to Washington State in the 1960s. Join us in the auditorium at 2:00 PM when our partners from Tacoma Arts Live will celebrate Dr. King’s legacy with a performance of Ruby Bridges. As part of Tacoma Arts Live’s Civil Rights Legacy Tour, Ruby Bridges is educational, family-friendly, and full of song and dance.

The Making of Unlocking McNeil: the Prison, the Place, the People
Saturday, January 26, 11:00 AM-Noon, and 2:00-3: 00 PM
Included with museum admission, FREE for members

Join exhibition staff and curators for a guided walk through of the new exhibit exploring the history of “Washington’s Alcatraz” - McNeil Island prison. Offered twice on opening day.

History After Hours: Candy Barcalendar History after Hours logo
Thursday, February 7, 7:00-10:00 PM
An ages 21+ program

This is your chance to learn about Washington State history through tasting sweets, paired with craft beer and wine! Try dessert delicacies while learning from confectioners about each specific company’s history as well as the processes behind creating our state’s most well-known treats. From Aplets and Cotlets to Almond Roca, Washington’s candy history is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. Tickets will be available soon!

Scholarly Selectionsproduce
Ferrying Food: The Story of the Cowlitz Farm
Third Thursday, February 21, 6:30-8:00 PM
FREE and open to the public

The Cowlitz Farm kept the Hudson’s Bay Company supplied with grain and pork from the 1830s-1850s, employing the latest technology to become one of the first corporate farms in the United States. UW Tacoma History B.A. Josiah Pollock will present his award-winning research about the Cowlitz Farm.

Third Thursday Eveningcalendar Third Thurs people in lobby
February 21, 3:00-8:00 PM
Free admission 3:00-8:00 PM

Enjoy all of our exhibitions and a free Scholarly Selections lecture too!


Unlocking the Future: Life after IncarcerationOmari improved
Saturday, March 2, 1:00-3:30 PM
FREE for WSHS members, or Included with admission

Join us at the History Museum for a moderated panel conversation about the challenges and opportunities of re-entry after incarceration. This event is presented in association with the exhibition Unlocking McNeil's Past: The Prison, The Place, The People.

Talk with fellow participants at a reception following the panel discussion. Then, see the exhibition with museum staff available for questions. If you wish, come early and see the exhibition before the panel discussion; the museum opens at 10:00 AM.

Moderator Omari Amili is an author and community leader. He is a 2019 Humanities Washington speaker, presenting From Crime to the Classroom: How Education Changes Lives.

Panel participants: Several of the panelists will talk about their paths to success after incarceration.

Secretary Stephen Sinclair, directs the Washington State Department of Corrections and is a leader in the prison reform/prison sustainability movement.

Dr. Christopher Beasley, University of Washington Tacoma Professor and Director of Post-Prison Education Research Lab; community psychologist; co-founder of the national Formerly Incarcerated College Graduates Network.

Mr. Shaun Worthy, entrepreneur, youth advocate, ambassador of Positive Change, TedX speaker, owner/founder of IAMWORTHY & ASSOCIATES, LLC.

Ms. Tarra Simmons. attorney; executive director of Civil Survival; Governor Appointee to the Public Defense Advisory Board and the Statewide Reentry Council where she serves as co-chair.

Mr. Christopher Johnston, recipient of the University of Washington 2017 Dean’s Leadership Award, Husky Volunteer Award, and Gift of Service Award; South Seattle College instructor; poet and singer.

Exhibition Preview Party: A Thousand Words’ Worth
Thursday, March 7, 7:00 – 8:30 PM
FREE for members; $15.00 for not-yet-members, includes reception and admission

This is your chance to meet and greet visiting Washington authors and celebrate a very special exhibition. Authors from around the state in multiple genres did a deep dive into the Washington State Historical Society’s collections and selected objects with which to tell stories. These object stories are paired with the author’s words, too. Enjoy appetizers and refreshments, hear from the authors, and be among the first to see this original exhibition.

Family Saturdays at the History Museum: Write Your Worldfamily
Saturday, March 9, 1:00-3:00 PM
Included with museum admission, FREE for members

Explore how history connects us all during our Family Saturdays. Join a museum facilitator and other families in our galleries to learn about artifacts on view, then make something of your own.
This month’s Family Saturday features a writing activity inspired by our new exhibit, A Thousand Words’ Worth: Washington Authors Tell Stories with Objects. In this exhibit, Washington authors selected objects and ephemera from the Historical Society’s collections to tell stories without words.
This activity is designed for children ages 4-12 but all ages are welcome!

Women’s History Wikithon
Saturday, March 9, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM
Washington State History Museum
FREE. Please register in advance. Includes museum admission and snacks; bring a sack lunch.

Scholars and interested citizens are invited to come together for an afternoon of collaboration to create or improve Wikipedia pages related to Washington State’s suffrage history. Learn from seasoned “Wikipedians” how to edit wiki pages, and work in small groups with women’s history experts. Honor Women’s History Month by updating our reference materials to reflect the dedicated work of Washington’s women suffragists. Bring a brown bag lunch, we’ll provide snacks. Hosted by Washington State Historical Society. Register at

Tacoma Louder Than a Bomb Teen Poetry Festival: Preliminaries
Friday, March 15, 16 & 17, time TBD
FREE for program participants

The History Museum is thrilled to host the preliminary rounds for Write 253’s annual teen poetry festival. Hear teen-created poetry from schools throughout the South Puget Sound as these talented students present and compete for spots in the poetry festival finals.

History Happy Hour Trivia: Tacomacalendar Trivia Night
Wednesday, March 20, 6:00-8:00 PM
The Swiss Restaurant & Pub
1904 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma
All ages welcome! No cost to play.

Test your Tacoma and Washington State trivia knowledge with the Washington State Historical Society, City of Tacoma Historic Preservation Office, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, and Tacoma Historical Society. Facts, fun and prizes aplenty!

Scholarly Selections
The History and Politics of Space Exploration
Third Thursday, March 21, 6:30-8:00 PM
FREE and open to the public

Discover the complicated history, politics, and future of space exploration with Aerospace Engineer and UWT Senior Lecturer Emeritus Linda Dawson, who worked on the space shuttle program at NASA’s Houston Control Center.

Third Thursday Evening
March 21, 3:00-8:00 PM
FREE admission 3:00-8:00 PM

Enjoy all of our exhibitions and a free Scholarly Selections lecture too!

History Happy Hour Trivia: Olympiacalendar Trivia Night
Thursday, March 28, 7:00-9:00 PM
Three Magnets Brewing, Barrel Room
600 Franklin St. SE, #105, Olympia
All ages welcome! Free to play.

Join us at the Three Magnets taproom and eatery for a spirited night of trivia with our partners from the Washington State Archives. This is the perfect event for history fans to show off their Washington trivia knowledge. Did we mention there will be prizes…?!




A Gallery Game for the Whole Family

Designed for four to eight players, MUSEO is a Bingo-style game of discovery in the Great Hall of Washington History. Ask for a packet at the information desk and let the sleuthing begin.

More for Kids

Treasure Hunting

In the Great Hall

Ever seen a gold nugget, a plutonium core, or an ox yoke? Keen-eyed young visitors are encouraged to pick up a treasure hunter’s challenge at the information desk and explore the Great Hall’s not-so-hidden treasures of Washington pictured there. A fun, self-directed activity for everyone.

More about the Great Hall

Model Railroad Operators' Hours

FIRST SATURDAY of every month
11 AM - 4PM

The Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers (PSMRE), the all-volunteer organization that operates the History Museum's permanent model railroad exhibit, holds a special Operators' Hours event on the first Saturday of every month. Operators' Hours is an opportunity to watch the masters at work and ask questions of the model railroad experts!

Model Train Festival