Fort Nisqually, originally planned as a fur trading outpost in 1833, became the headquarters of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company; a 160,000 acre agricultural business with a global reach until 1869.
Just as it did nearly 200 years ago, Fort Nisqually has had to adapt to changing times. “Living history is characterized by hands-on, in-person experiences,” said Event Coordinator Elizabeth Rudrud.
How does a museum that relies on touch and proximity to historical interpreters move forward in the era of COVID-19?
While Fort Nisqually has reopened to the public, the museum has also created online programs. “It has been really exciting to try new things and reach audiences who are unable to be here in person,” explained Rudrud. “We are all looking for ways to slow down and appreciate things a little differently. Learning a heritage skill is a great way to do so.”
The museum has been offering interactive virtual programs that focus on historic crafts and trades demonstrations. The programs are reaching new audiences from around the country.
The museum’s Fort from Home series showcases the talents of Fort interpreters through interactive livestreams. Interpreters demonstrate historic skills and crafts – from historic cooking to blacksmithing –and answer questions in real-time. ‘Visitors’ are tuning in from home and in the case of their Victorian Cooking series, even cooking along with the interpreter.
In past years, Heritage Skills Workshops provided one-on-one instruction in skilled crafts such as cider making, watercolor, moccasin making and butchering. This year, participants will be offered a chance to join in virtually, although some workshops may offer limited in-person experiences. For some of the workshops, a materials kit can be pre-purchased so participants can make the project at home.
Typically, this time of year the museum is fully booked with school groups. “Children love the experience of entering the fort, learning Fort Nisqually’s story and feeling like they stepped back in time,” said Education Coordinator Lane Sample. This year, tours have moved online. Fort Nisqually Live is an interactive experience and Discover Fort Nisqually is a series of pre-recorded, content-focused tours. Each tour option is supplemented by curriculum provided by the museum, including historical documents, reference materials, and other resources. Scholarships are available through the Fort Nisqually Foundation.
“Fort Nisqually must remain true to its mission, engaging a diverse regional audience with Puget Sound’s first globally connected settlement through historic preservation, experiential learning, and interpretation,” Jim Lauderdale, Museum Supervisor said. “We are so pleased to be able to offer in-person guest experiences Friday through Sunday each week, but the virtual programs increase our reach to audiences new and old. These new opportunities help us to achieve our mission even during the pandemic.”
Get more information about these programs and sign up at FortNisqually.org.
Fort from Home – The talents and expertise of Fort Nisqually interpreters showcased live through interactive virtual programming.
- Victorian Cooking, Oct. 17
- Brain Tanning, Oct. 24
- Victorian Séance, Oct. 31
- Unraveling the 19th Century Sontag, Nov. 7
- Blacksmithing, Nov. 14
- Victorian Cooking, Nov. 21
Heritage Skills Workshops – Live interactive instruction in skilled crafts such as cider making, watercolor, and moccasin making.
- Metis Moccasin Sewing, Oct. 24
- Cider Making, Nov. 7
- 19th Century Watercolor, Dec. 12
Supplemental curriculum materials are available. Times vary. Submit a tour reservation request at FortNisqually.org
- Fort Nisqually Live – Live virtual tour of Fort Nisqually via Zoom or Teams with a Fort interpreter.
- Discover Fort Nisqually – Pre-recorded tours of the Fort showing what life was like there in the mid-1800s.