Visit Legacy Washington exhibits in the Secretary of State’s office at the Washington State Capitol. Or view them online below.

Learn more about our traveling exhibits.

Who are We? Washington’s Kaleidoscope

Is there a quintessential Washingtonian? Hardly. History has made clear that we’re more than our identity—more than techies or coffee lovers or outdoor enthusiasts. We’re a kaleidoscope, a cultural melting pot. We live in a place constantly reinventing itself.

Since Native Americans left the first human footprints on the landscape thousands of years ago, Washingtonians have continually risen above adversity. Today you’ll meet fascinating figures who’ve fought for our civil rights, advocated for the disabled, protected our environment, defended our nation and pushed the boundaries of innovation.

August 2016 - August 2017

Online Exhibit

Washington Remembers WWII Their Sacrifice. Our Freedom.

Before they liberated concentration camps or freed countries from tyranny, men and women in uniform fought enemy forces everywhere—in factories on the Washington home front and on beaches abroad. They braved the unknown, lived through the unthinkable and changed who we are.

Online Exhibit


Washington 1889

A year of big dreams, big burns and big politics,1889 captured a place in our history as a time of great prosperity and adversity. The face of Washington changed. Pioneers arrived and townsfolk rebuilt from the rubble. Finally, on November 11, 1889, Washington rose as the 42nd state in the union.

Online Exhibit


Grand Coulee to Grunge Eight Stories that Changed the World

From a Starbucks store in Malaysia to a 747 on a tarmac in Antarctica, Washington is everywhere. We built “the biggest thing on earth.” We ended a world war. We introduced air travel and helped put man on the moon. The fruits of our labor appear on dinner tables around the globe. Even Northwest grunge became iconic worldwide.

Through the ages, big dreams and big risks tell the Washington story.

Online Exhibit


Quilts of Valor

Beautiful handmade quilts created by volunteer quilters from around Washington State are part of the national Quilts of Valor program.

 See Photos

Quilts of Valor Exhibit

"WE'RE STILL HERE" The Survival of Washington Indians

Thousands of years after they first walked the earth, Washington Indians remain locked in a struggle to protect who they are, what they believe and how they live. When the American West opened in the 19th century, legendary battles ensued and threatened ancient customs. Follow Washington’s original inhabitants through a war over land, a clash over culture and a revival of Native tradition in our world today.

Online Exhibit

WE'RE STILL HERE - The Survival of Washington Indians Exhibit

Young Man in a Hurry

His era has long passed, but the name Isaac Stevens can still be heard from the coastal towns of Washington State to the arid plains of Idaho.

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Isaac Stevens, A Life

  • Nearly all historical accounts reference the small stature of Isaac Stevens. At birth, he was so fragile his parents feared he would not live. Mild pituitary dwarfism accounted for his large head and short legs.
  • When he was a young boy, Stevens lost his mother in a fateful carriage accident caused by his father's "furious" driving.
  • Stevens was fiercely competitive. He outperformed his classmates at the prestigious West Point Academy and graduated first in class in 1839.
  • The lieutenant took a gunshot wound to the foot during the Mexican War and nearly died, but Stevens never wavered in his service to the country.
  • As his first orders of business, Governor Stevens created the first American library north of the Columbia River and established the first territorial legislature.

Enduring Impact

Railroad Survey
You can still find Stevens' footprint across the West. One of the most studied chapters of his life is the railroad survey, a cross-country exploration through the wilds of the last frontier. Already appointed Washington Territorial Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Stevens pushed for a third responsibility: to command the North Pacific Railroad Survey.

In 1853, Stevens and multiple survey crews set off for the last frontier, conquering mountain peaks and valleys in search of an ideal railroad route. The first transcontinental railroad, dubbed the iron highway, would connect both coasts for the first time and transform the nation. As commander, Stevens explored terrain between the 47th and 49th parallels. He produced a comprehensive report documenting the land, interaction with Indians, plants, and animals.

Indian Treaties
Stevens earned a reputation as a contentious negotiator after he was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs. The Superintendent persuaded Indians of Washington Territory to cede their land to the federal government, but promised to protect their right to hunt and fish in their "usual and accustomed" places. Tribes were taken aback by Stevens' quick pace and conduct during the negotiations. War broke out. Eventually, the language in the treaties triggered court cases, the first in 1905, as Indians and non-Indians clashed over fishing rights. Finally, a landmark decision in 1974 awarded tribes 50 percent of the harvestable catch. But the decision spurred violence on the water and outrage. The United States Supreme Court upheld Judge George Boldt's opinion in 1979. Although major issues of the case have been settled, aspects of the "Boldt Decision" remain in court to this day.

The Nation Marks the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War

Isaac Stevens lost his life during the bloodiest conflict ever fought on U.S. soil. Roughly 620,000 soldiers died. Some of the war's highest ranking generals, including Ulysses S. Grant and George McClellan, served in Washington Territory before the war.

Civil War resources relating to Washington

Exhibit Debut: Young Man in a Hurry

MOVING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK: Washington's First Women in Government

exhibit photo

"The history of this nation… could not have been written without the contribution of women."
- Catherine May

When Congresswoman Catherine May faced a chamber full of men to persuade the sitting president to appoint more bright women, she'd come a long way from producing the Betty Crocker Show for NBC. When a pre-school teacher heard a demeaning quip from a sitting legislator that she'd never make a difference "as just a mom in tennis shoes," Patty Murray made a run for the U.S. Senate and won.

Since 1913, fourteen pathfinders have pushed the limits, stood for election, and won offices never before held by women. Their landmark elections show progressive Washington – a unique state that empowered women with the fundamental right to vote a decade before the nation; the only state with a sitting female Governor and two women in the U.S. Senate.

But the gender gap remains. Washington has yet to elect a female Speaker of the House, Lieutenant Governor, State Auditor, or State Treasurer. No American woman has claimed the presidency or vice presidency. In 2006, the U.S. had awarded only 14 of its 100 Senate seats to women.

Many of these officeholders, now at the height of their power, remember a world that judged and denied based on gender --- when colleges turned them away at the door – when voters held women to a different standard, and when issues related to childcare were considered wholly a "woman's problem." Moving Forward, Looking Back celebrates 100 years of the women's vote in Washington and the journey that continues today.

See photos of the exhibit launch

Biographies of Washington's First Women in Government:

Resources: