Exhibitions are generously supported by presenting sponsors The Norcliffe Foundation and South Sound Magazine.
As of 5:00 PM March 12, 2020, Washington State History Museum is temporarily closed to the public in response to the COVID-19 virus. Staff are available and you may reach out via email or phone. We look forward to engaging with our communities again soon. Please check back for updates.
Current featured exhibitions - click for more:
Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.
Exhibition on view through March 15, 2020
In this new Smithsonian traveling exhibition, visitors will be immersed in the narrative of our nation through the stories of revolutionary, iconic African American men.
Unforgiving Waters: Shipwrecks of the Pacific Northwest
Exhibition on view January 25-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.
Collections Selections: The Not-So-Ordinary
Exhibition on view February 1-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.
In Washington's Fields: Photographs by David Bacon
Exhibition on view February 1-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'.
The Great Hall
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.
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.