Past Exhibits

Washington 1889

November 2014-August 2015

View online exhibit

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.

Grand Coulee to Grunge

Eight Stories that Changed the World
September 2013 - September 2014

Online Exhibit

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.

Quilts of Valor Exhibit

Quilts of Valor Exhibit

July 1-31, 2013

Beautiful handmade quilts created by volunteer quilters from around Washington State will be on display in the Office of the Secretary of State July 1-31, 2013. The quilts are part of the national Quilts of Valor program.

The Quilts of Valor program was started in 2003. Blue Star mom Catherine Roberts, began the Quilts of Valor Foundation from her sewing room in Seaford, Delaware. Her son Nathanael’s year-long deployment to Iraq provided the initial inspiration, and her desire to see that returning warriors were welcomed home with the love and gratitude they deserved, provided the rest.

QOV’s are stitched with love, prayers and healing thoughts. Combat troops who have been wounded or touched by war are awarded this tangible token of appreciation that unequivocally says, “Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor.” The 13 quilts on display represent only a fraction of the quilts created and awarded by Washington volunteers since 2003.

Quilts are awarded at many different levels. But no matter how a Quilt of Valor is given, the impact it delivers is unequivocal. As one recipient said “My quilt isn’t another military medal to be placed in a box and sit on my shelf. I was moved to tears.” – SSgt RC, US Army, Iraq ‘05

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, from a family of quilters and wife of an Army retiree, enthusiastically supports this exhibit in her office.

Mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation:
Our mission is to cover all our warriors and combat veterans who have been touched by war or wounded with our healing and comforting Quilts of Valor.

Because no matter where we stand politically, we accept our warriors and veterans with open arms and open hearts. One only has to talk to the veterans of previous wars and conflicts to get a glimpse that the profound effects of war never really leave.

See photos of the exhibit launch.

The Survival of Washington Indians Exhibit

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

Online Exhibit »

April 24, 2012 - June, 2013

In recognition of the first footprints across Washington, the Heritage Center presents a rare, privately-funded exhibit: "We're still here." The Survival of Washington Indians. While the exhibit is no longer on display at the Secretary of State's office, view the online exhibit and watch the Traveling Exhibits Schedule to see where it will be next.

Washington's story begins thousands of years ago, before the historic journey of Christopher Columbus, the arrival of American settlers and statehood. "We're still here." acknowledges the early and continuing story of Native Americans in four major themes: the relationship with earth and the struggle over land; assimilation practices and the conflict over Native identity; the century-long battle for treaty fishing rights; and the cultural revival of Indian customs and language in our world today. The exhibit is supported and vetted by many Washington Indians.



Young Man in a Hurry

Exhibit Debut: 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. Cast as both a brilliant war hero and a slick negotiator with a brazen approach, the complex Stevens is a well-studied and controversial figure in Pacific Northwest history.

The exhibit explores the fascinating life of Washington's first Territorial Governor through rare maps, images, detailed illustrations and artifacts.

While the exhibit is no longer on display at the Secretary of State's office, watch the Traveling Exhibits Schedule to see where it will be next.

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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

Washington's First Women in Government

"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:


First Washington Women in Law March 22 - April 30, 2010

First Washington Women in Law

Celebrating this year's Centennial of Women's Suffrage in Washington State, the Washington State Supreme Court, the Supreme Court Gender and Justice Commission, and the Washington State Heritage Center present the First Washington Women in Law exhibit. The exhibit recognizes Washington women who have held significant positions in the law in our State over the past 100 years. From Reba Hurn, first woman to be admitted to the Bar in Washington in 1913 to the first female majority on the State Supreme Court in 2003, this exhibit recognizes the ground-breaking achievements of women as leaders in the law profession over the years.