Seaport Exhibits

Tacoma-This is Your Waterfront!

The Seaport's Museum is a place where stories are told with artifacts from our permanent collection and on extended loan. This year we welcome new exhibits sharing stories of Puget Sound's Mosquito Fleet, Maritime Lego Display, Classic Boats, and new train exhibit entitled Rails to Sails.

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WUNDERKAMMER: Artifacts, False Memories & Projections

Saturday, July 18 - Sunday, August 30

The Seaport is presenting an intriguing contemporary art exhibition inspired by the Renaissance wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities.

The Renaissance wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, was a gallery of natural specimens, cultural artifacts, scientific instruments, anthropological objects, and unclassifiable oddities first collected by seafaring explorers for European royalty. Such collections, distant precursors to today’s museums, were compendiums of fascinating objects both real and fake. Whether genuine or not, the objects served to stimulate the spirit of inquiry and adventure in the human imagination. Inspired by the wunderkammer, this exhibition embeds select contemporary artworks with objects in the Seaport’s permanent collections, while presenting others in a gallery setting. Some of the region’s foremost artists in glass, video, ceramics, and mixed media present work to delight and confound viewers, and suggest a collection of curiosities for the digital age.

Artists: Renee Adams, David Blakesley, Justin Gibbens, Marc Dombrosky/Shannon Eakins, Chuck Iffland, Alice Di Certo/Kyle Dillehay, Steve Jensen, Alexander Keyes, Lisa Kinoshita, Nicholas Nyland, Jenny Pohlman/Sabrina Knowles, Holly Senn, Jessica Spring, Brent Watanabe, Mishele Dupree Winter, and Robert Zinkevich. Show runs through August 30, 2015.

The Seaport thanks Tacoma Maritime Festival, Tacoma Arts Commission, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, and Artech Fine Art Services.

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Fishing the Sound

Fishing, in both sport and instustrial forms, has played an impotant role in the economy and lifestyle of Puget Sound.  Tacoma is the home of many shipbuilders who manufactured fishing vessels of all sizes.  Come and see models of commercial vessels manufactured by Martinac on the Thea Foss Wateray as well as smaller locally made boats for sport fishing.  This exhibit includes an incredible collection of vintage fishing lures and equipment on loan to the Seaport. 

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Willits Canoes

The Willits brothers, Earl and Floyd, built canoes in their Day Island factory on the west side of Tacoma.  They manufactured canoes spanning many decades, beginning in 1908 and concluding in 1967 with over 900 examples built.  Also in this exhibit is a one-of-a-kind 20-foot launch, built in 1929 by the brothers.  Learn about this local story of a cottage industry that produced products highly sought after by canoe enthusiasts.

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Vintage Scuba Exhibition

The Vintage Scuba exhibit is a colaboration between the Seaport's maritime museum and Flashback Scuba Museum.  This exhibit showcases early scuba equipment from the 1950s and 1960s.  This exhibit includes how breathing devices work, model of an early wood diving bell, breating tanks, and hard-helmet diving gear.  There are models of Jacques Cousteau's famous underwater exploration vessel Calypso, which was built locally in Puget Sound at the Ballard Ship Yard.  One of these models visitors can climb aboard!  Children will enjoy the coloring activities of underwater scenes and finding characters from "Finding Nemo" hidden throughout the exhibit. 

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Mosquito Fleet

The Mosquito Fleet was a name given to the steam ferries that once crossed the "Liquid Highway" of Puget Sound during the decades spanning the turn of the 20th Century.  Before the era of paved highways the preferred mode of transportaton between waterfront communities in Puget Sound was by ship.  This exhibit showcases many of the nameboards recovered from Mosquito Fleet vessesl prior to their demolition after retirement.  Large ships wheels from the steamships Iroquois and City of Bremerton are on display.  Many handcrafted models of steamships may be viewed, along with an eight-foot long model of the Tacoma. This exhibit will delight anyone with an interest in steam ferries!

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An Ocean Transformed

An Ocean Transformed - art with a message, is an educational exhibit featuring marine debris sculptures designed and built by Sherman Elementary School (Tacoma Public Schools) students from as part of 2015 Seaport education pilot program. The five amazing sculptures invoke strong visual messages and are sure to encourage best practices in everyone who views these wonderful art pieces. Plan to visit the Seaport to see the exhibit, read the students' journals, enjoy the students’ creativity and take to heart the messages they impart! To enhance this exhibit we also have a 32-foot plastic whale on display. Learn more about the pilot program.

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Balfour Dock Building Exhibit

Our building is the last remaining intact section of a continuous heavy timber frame warehouse that defined Tacoma’s waterfront for almost a century. The Balfour Dock Building Exhibit is a key exhibit in our permanent collection. The exhibit showcases the history of our building complete with a piece of the heavy timber truss that supported the original wharf. Learn more about our building's history while viewing this amazing structure.

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Boats for all Occasions

See our wonderful collection of classic recreational boats in an exhibit called "Boats for all Occasions," which includes original Andrew Foss rowboats; Willits canoes: Faith, our Columbia gillnetter outfitted for youth boater education; hand-built small craft for cruising local waterways, and impeccably restored Poulsbo boats. Also included are a number of models from the Mosquito Fleet era.

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Boat Shop

Our active Heritage Wooden Boat Shop allows Seaport volunteer boatbuilders to celebrate and preserve traditional maritime construction and craft.
Our boat shop provides:

  • "Hot shop" activities for guests to observe when our Museum is open
  • A showcase for traditional maritime crafts and construction skills
  • Workshops by master boat builders who are part of the Seaport volunteer boat building team
  • Copies of historic vessels for the Seaport’s boat livery to be offered as rentals in the future
  • Opportunities to learn about restoring and maintaining boats and maritime artifacts

Volunteer opportunities are available for people at all skill levels.