One-day discoveries: the region’s museums offer art, culture, history and the eccentric
When the autumn rains begin, head inside to see the latest exhibits at a favorite museum or check out one you’ve never visited. This region offers a multitude of museums, large and small, important and less known. Exhibits range from serious art, local history and cultural heritage to downright quirky, such as:
The Rubber Chicken Museum is a hilarious ode to plastic fowl, that classic comedy prop. It opened in 2018 at the Archie McPhee novelty store in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. Here, you can see around 200 yellow rubber chickens on display, including a glow-in-the-dark rubber chicken, the world’s largest rubber chicken, and the world’s smallest rubber chicken (through a magnifying glass).
Take your shot with this 7 foot tall rubber chicken. There’s no admission, and you’ll also enjoy browsing Archie McPhee’s goofy toys, gadgets, costumes and, of course, rubber chickens for sale. archiemcpheeseattle.com/rubber-chicken-museum/
“In Your Own Backyard”, Edmonds’ Cascadia Art Museum displays the visual art and design of the North West from 1860 to 1970. Until November 20, it offers four exhibitions, including Northwest Arts & Crafts Movement, The Art of Reading, Northwest Life: A Legacy of Mid-Century Designand The art of Howard Duell. cascadiaartmuseum.org
The Edmonds Historical Museum displays the history of the town of Edmonds and South Snohomish County in the restored 1910 Carnegie Library building downtown. Small but still an active collector, it has more than 26,000 objects, documents and photographs representative of this history and this heritage. historicedmonds.org
Going north, the Tulalip’ tribes Hibulb Cultural Center is not called a museum, but it showcases and interprets the traditional way of life of the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other Coast Salish tribes. It is designed to educate visitors about Coast Salish culture and native youth about their past. hibulbculturalcenter.org
Heading south, the Nordic National Museum in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood features Nordic travels as its permanent exhibition. Exhibits span 11,000 years of history to the present day, including 4,000-year-old stone axes and tools, Viking-era runestones, 17th-century swords and jewelry, and religious artifacts century. The rotating special exhibition currently features Across the West and North: Norwegian and American Landscape Photographyuntil November 27. nordicmuseum.org
The Burke Museum on the campus of the University of Washington is a new type of natural history museum. Here you can see current active searches; for example, paleontologists working in glass-walled labs to examine a 60-million-year-old T-Rex dinosaur skull. The museum houses more than 16 million objects, including impressive dinosaur skeletons and extensive collections of fossils, flora and fauna. His Northwest Native Art The gallery features over 1,900 artifacts from the northwest/southeast coast of Alaska and 20,000 artifacts from the Columbia River Basin. burkemuseum.org
Volunteer Park Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) showcases a selection of Asian artifacts from its extensive collection in a historic 1933 Art Deco building. Originally home to the Seattle Art Museum (before its move downtown in 1991), SAAM showcases the art and objects grouped according to their relationship to central themes of Asian arts and societies. These themes include spirituality, worship, celebration, visual arts, literature, clothing, nature, and the power of birth and death. seattleartmuseum.org/visit/asian-art-museum
As the region’s leading arts institution, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) features numerous permanent collections, including Northwest Coast Native American, American, European, African, Oceanian, Modern and Contemporary. Around 25,000 exhibits illustrate an astonishing diversity of media, cultures and eras. Don’t miss the Native American galleries and the outstanding collection of Australian Aboriginal art. Special rotating exhibitions are also presented. www.seattleartmuseum.org
The History and Industry Museum (MOHAI) is a treasure trove of Puget Sound area history. Here you can see Boeing’s first commercial aircraft, the 1919 Boeing B-1, hanging overhead. Then, laugh at local traditions like the seafood chain’s vintage Ivar clam suit. Exhibits range from the heritage of the Coast Salish Indians and early Spanish, American, British and Russian explorers to the construction of 1911-1916 from the Ballard Locks (Hiram M. Chittenden) to today’s high-tech innovations shaping the Puget Sound region. mohai.org
The extravagant and colorful building of the Pop Culture Museum (MoPOP) is designed to convey the energy and fluidity of music – which you experience indoors via immersive exhibits and artifact displays. Discover the worlds of Nirvana, Jimmy Hendrix and Pearl Jam. Check Guitar Gallery, Sound Lab and Science Fiction + Fantasy Hall of Fame. www.mopop.org
The Frye Art Museum is Seattle’s only free art museum. His Founding collection of mainly late 19th and early 20th century European art was donated to the city in 1952 by Charles and Emma Frye, prominent business leaders and art collectors. The museum has since purchased or received extensive collections of other works of art. It also features local and global artists exploring the issues of our time. friemuseum.org
The Wing Luke Museum is the only Pan-Asian museum of culture, arts and heritage in North America. Located in Seattle’s Chinatown, it serves as a cultural anchor for Asian-American, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. Learn the stories of early Asian immigrants to current contributors through immersive exhibits, art exhibits, and educational programs. See A dragon lives here about the life of famous martial artist Bruce Lee and his local connection. wingluke.org
Also focusing on community connection is the Northwest African American Museum, located in the central district of Seattle. Its exhibits and programs showcase the visual arts, music, crafts, literature and history of African Americans in the Northwest – from the roots of past slavery to recent immigrants from Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia. . Programs such as monthly Interactive story time, talk about book and Descending series complement exhibits. naamnw.org
Visit museum websites for locations, admission fees, hours of operation, tours, directions, and parking.
— By Julie Gangler
Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Office of Tourism. She began her career as an editor at Sunset Magazine and later served as an Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.