Tacoma, WA – What happens when you bring creative writers into a building filled with tens of thousands of historic artifacts and ask them to pick a few objects? The Washington State Historical Society did just that. The resulting exhibition is a lively and nostalgic nexus, as if your favorite bookstore befriended your Great Grandma’s attic. A Thousand Words’ Worth: Washington Authors Tell Stories With Objectsopens this Saturday, March 9 and runs through August 24 at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.
“We invited a group of well-loved authors with diverse voices from around the state to dive into our collections. We asked them to select objects to tell stories with,” said Audience Engagement Director Mary Mikel Stump. “We want to actively use our collections to engage communities with history in unique and accessible ways.”
Historic artifacts, ephemera and images hold significance and embody story; that is one reason we seek to preserve them. The thirteen selected authors, or interpreters in the cases where authors are deceased, have sought objects with a resonating essence to combine into meaningful vignettes. The “object stories” are paired with their published or newly-inspired writing.
As the exhibition’s introduction reminds us, “The Pacific Northwest is a place of fierce beauty and savage landscapes … its unusual environments have inspired those who have spent their whole lives in this land, as well as those who have seen it for the first time. The Northwest character has been shaped by legend and story, exploration and innovation, and this, in turn, has created a place where authors have been inspired to bring their own myths to life.”
Each author brings a unique perspective to the exhibition through their writing and through the choices they have made from the Historical Society’s collections.
“Through this exhibition, we’re exploring how history interweaves with popular culture and other parts of the humanities,” said Lead Curator Gwen Whiting. “Many of these objects would not necessarily be shown together in a traditional exhibition. A Thousand Words Worth is more like a library, where we invite visitors to consider each author’s display as a book. Metaphorically, you can pull one off the shelf and take some time to read the objects. We hope visitors will make connections between the author’s selections and their own experiences of Washington.”
The gallery includes an interactive space for visitors to create and tell their own stories, too.
The authors were selected through community conversations as well as an internal review process. Among other criteria, authors were selected who have lived in Washington, who represent a diverse variety of genres and cultures, whose work was significantly influenced by this place, and/or those who have had a literary influence in our region. Authors include:
- Octavia E. Butler
- Chenoa Egawa
- Kathleen Flenniken
- Jamie Ford
- Samuel Green
- David Guterson
- Frank Herbert and Brian Herbert
- Dr. Charles Johnson
- Debbie Macomber
- Betty MacDonald as interpreted by Paula Becker
- John Okada as interpreted by Frank Abe
- Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring
- Shawn Wong
The History Museum hopes that visitors will be inspired to explore other works by Washington authors and to draw new connections between historic objects and contemporary life, as well as potentially creating work of their own with ideas drawn from items in the museum.
The museum developed related programming for people of all ages, including:
- Family Saturday: Write Your World, Saturday March 9, 1:00-3:00 PM
- Wine & Words, Friday March 15, 6:00-8:30 PM, a Member and Invitation-only event
- History Museum’s Book Fair with hands-on activities, Saturday April 6, 10:00 AM- 5:00 PM
- Question & Answer with Washington Author David Guterson, Saturday April 6, 6:00-7:30 PM at 7 Seas Brewing, 2101 Jefferson Ave, Tacoma
- Scholarly Selections: Young Adult Dystopias in Popular Culture, Thursday April 18, 6:30-8:00 PM
- Family Saturdays at the History Museum: Make Your Own Book, Saturday May 11, 1:00-3:00 PM
- Scholarly Selections: From Emily Dickinson to Lucinda Williams, Thursday May 16, 6:30-8:00 PM
Get further details at www.washingtonhistory.org/1000words.