The Washington State History Museum
1911 Pacific Avenue, New Tacoma, Tacoma

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Little Black Dress
August 31 - December 5, 2019

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” – Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

How does fashion reflect social and cultural values? The Washington State History Museum creatively connects clothing and social constructs through the story of the quintessential “little black dress.” A timeline of garments, from ruffled Victorian gowns through contemporary cocktail shifts, tells stories of practical, social and cultural changes in our history.

Dress styles and construction often mirrored social standards and perceived norms for women’s roles. As ideas about women’s roles changed, so did style, fabric, and function in fashion. The results could either reinforce cultural norms or work to define countercultural movements. Historical events and key individuals have influenced how women dress. Prohibition ushered in the first known cocktail dresses, and pants became more commonplace as women entered the workforce during World War II. Celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, and Madonna were fashion trendsetters.

LBD: Little Black Dress, A Fashion Evolution fills a large gallery with deeply-hued garments from the mid 1800s through the early 21st century. Each dress is shown with artwork by women of the same time period, drawn from the Historical Society's collections. The exhibit begins with black dressing as socially conscripted mourning attire. Moving into the mid-1920s, American Vogue revealed Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s first iconic illustration of the little black dress, described as “the Ford,” playing on Henry Ford’s statement about the Model T: “available in any color… so long as it’s black.” Toward the end, you’ll see 1990s minimalist styles led by designers such as Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, and Nicole Miller. It wouldn't be complete without a nod to Washington’s famous contribution to the fashion world –grunge–which popularized thrift-store shopping.

Men of Change
December 21, 2019 - March 15, 2020

Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth. presents for new generations the stories of significant African American men, the known and unknown leaders who stand as national icons. The Smithsonian traveling exhibition uses bold, contemporary visual art, fresh literary excerpts, and vibrant stories to highlight more than two dozen revolutionary individuals. Men of Change weaves the historic and contemporary together to illuminate their impact and significance, within the context of rich community traditions. Washington State History Museum will be the only museum in the region to feature this historical exhibition. Find out more about Men of Change here.

A New Moon Rises
August 31 - December 1, 2019

See 51 dramatic, large-scale landscape images of the Moon’s surface captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) between 2009 and 2015. These breathtaking images feature the Apollo landing sites, majestic mountains rising out of the darkness, the lunar poles and more.

The dozens of enormous prints presented in this exhibition reveal a celestial neighbor that is surprisingly dynamic, full of grandeur and wonder, with impact craters, recent volcanic activity and a crust fractured by the shrinking of a still-cooling interior. The unique views of the lunar surface not only help answer questions about the moon’s formation and evolution but reveal stunning landforms both alien and familiar.

Visitors can also see 3-D models of the Moon's surface, rocks gathered by the first humans on the Moon (Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Neil Armstrong), and retro “futuristic” objects from the Historical Society’s collections that show what mid-century Americans thought life would be like in a post-lunar-landing world.

Exploring this exhibit is the next best thing to being an astronaut!

Collections Selections: Canoe Models
February 16, 2019 - September 22, 2019

This exhibition shows the Washington State Historical Society’s collection of model canoes carved as representations of larger vessels and as art created for the tourist trade. Several different tribes, art styles, and canoe designs are represented here, dating from the 1870s to the early 2000s.

February 16, 2019 - January 13, 2020

Experience a single horizon line created through twenty-eight landscapes in an intimate gallery setting. All works are from the Washington State Historical Society’s collection and date from 1870 to 1966. They are hung together in a way that aligns their dominant horizon lines. The cumulative result is the effect of a continual landscape around the perimeter of the gallery.

While the exhibition features paintings of differing sizes, media, and techniques, the works themselves portray the suggested influence of the physical grandeur and the capturing of the native landscape of the Pacific Northwest, alongside the larger idea of horizon and the opportunity that looking westward afforded many of the artists whose work is represented here. Works from the WSHS collection included in HORIZON demonstrate how various painters have grappled with the vast scale and subtle nuances of the Pacific Northwest landscape.

The dates of the artworks exhibited span almost a century, ranging from 1870 to 1966, and vary considerably in style and environmental treatment. Some artists sought to capture the immensity or emptiness of a view, while others focused instead on the impact of settlement and “progress,” as it was thought of at the time. This unlikely stable of artists, with only the ultimate resting place of their works in common, illustrates an influx of creative wanderers to the American West, each of whom heralded from some other place and brought with them a unique point of view—an individual lens through which to see the environs of Washington State.

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.

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.

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.

Click here for the most up to date exhibition information.


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