Current Exhibit: Old School Tacoma

Hidden History Revealed

WHEN: Free Exhibit Opening Reception: Thursday, September 12, 2019, 5 to 7 pm

WHERE: Tacoma Historical Society Museum, 919 Pacific Avenue in the historic Provident Building

DURATION: The exhibit will be on display through February 29, 2020.  Museum hours are 11 am to 4 pm, Wednesday through Saturday. Exhibit/museum admission is free, supported by a grant from the Bamford Family Foundation. 

CURATOR: Brendan Balaam

DESIGNER: Chris Fiala Erlich

Since its beginning in a one-room cabin in Old Town in 1869, the history of Tacoma’s schools has spanned 150 years. This exhibit digs into the hidden history of the past, revealing what may have been forgotten, or is beyond the lifespan of our collective memory.

  • See what our schools looked like, how they began, and what important things happened within them.
  • Learn how they were shaped by the communities they served and by changing ideas about what schools should do and how they should look.
  • Realize the impact of city growth, major historical events, the social justice movement, and disasters — both natural and of our own making.

"We thought it was important that the exhibit be developed with student participation," said Tacoma Historical Society’s curator, Brendan Balaam. "In the spring, University of Washington Tacoma student Leah Mallett compiled research on the Cushman Native American School and on Tacoma’s Japanese Language School. Another UWT student, Alyssa Urish, contributed a chapter from her graduate thesis on school desegregation in Tacoma. This summer we were fortunate to again participate in the University of Puget Sound’s intern program. UPS seniors Eli Whelan and Allyson Niitani researched and developed the exhibit’s main themes, visited school locations, and gathered photos and artifacts."

"This truly has been a community effort," said Tacoma Historical Society’s managing director, Michael Lafreniere. "We worked closely with Joey Grant, Public Records Manager for Tacoma Schools, who is currently evaluating the status of the school district’s archives." Society volunteers will assist in the fabrication and installation of the exhibit.

The exhibit was made possible through a generous grant provided by the Bamford Family Foundation. 

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