Civil War Pathways in the Pacific Northwest


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February 17 - July 6, 2014

  • Should nonwhites live in Washington?
  • Should Washington become a separate nation?
  • How should the government deal with political dissenters? 

These were the debates of the day in our area during the Civil War. Many people assume the Civil War happened "back East." This misperception neglects the impact the war had on other areas of the country, including the Pacific Northwest. In fact, the Civil War was a national war about radically different ideas -- slavery, state's rights, political dissent, and federal power -- not just a regional war on eastern battlefields. The people of the Pacific Northwest made choices and went different ways. This exhibit is about those choices and where they led -- the pathways people took. These pathways were discovered through a large crowd-sourcing project that turned everyday citizens into historical researchers, allowing the collection of valuable references to Civil War -era life in Washington.

On display will be over 150 original artifacts including rare items such as an early photograph of Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Stevens's sword, rare manuscripts, drawings from the U.S. National Archives, and a host of weapons, maps, sketches, and photographs. Together with the stories gleaned from the research project, visitors will experience a powerful exhibit connecting the issues of the past to those of today.

Search our Collections for a variety of Civil War artifacts. You can also purchase the digital images.



Download the Pathways to Freedom PowerPoint presentation to supplement your discussion of the Civil War Pathways exhibit.


Press Release for Civil War Pathways in the Northwest


 See More Programming Related to Civil War Pathways in the Pacific Northwest


Great article about "Free Boy" and author Lorraine McChonaghy -- also the curator of the Civil War Pathways exhibit. You can purchase "Free Boy" in our Museum Store.



The Oregon History Museum is exhibiting "Two Years, One Month, Lincoln's Legacy" from April 12 to July 4 and is offering free admission through July to members of the Washington State Historical Society. This is a great exhibit to visit if you enjoyed our Civil War Pathways in the Pacific Northwest.