AMONG thousands of relics preserved at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry, some of them famous and some of them grand, I was taken with a hat. It is a cheap hat of red felt with a boy’s name sewn on it. Attached is an ostrich feather, dyed pink.
I had one of those hats. It was from the Seattle World’s Fair of 1962.
Unlike the old museum at Montlake, the new one has as much space for recent history as for the old stuff.
It has a wrecked car from bricks that fell in the earthquake of Feb. 28, 2001. It has the Rainier Brewery’s “R,” an artifact to be celebrated Thursday with a visit by the Wild Rainiers, the walking beer-bottle mascots of the 1970s. It has the hydroplane Slo Mo Shun IV, which set the water speed record on June 26, 1950.
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The building itself, at 860 Terry Avenue N., at the south end of Lake Union, is the Naval Reserve Armory built at the beginning of World War II.
The old stuff is still there: the Mercer girls; the Seattle fire; the gold rush; the general strike; Prohibition.
The libertine city is remembered with century-old beer bottles, a roulette wheel and dice.
There is an exhibit of city planning, including fanciful visions that the practical people of Seattle rejected.
Some of the things are painful: the Chinese American expulsion of 1886; the Japanese-American internment of 1942; the 1948 Albert Canwell hearings that sought to expel Communists from the University of Washington.
A special exhibit, “Celluloid Seattle,” shows how Seattle has appeared in the movies. There are photos of the old one-screen theaters and what has become of them.
Remember the Ridgemont? The Coliseum? The Blue Mouse?
When I was young, the bellyache was that history wasn’t “relevant.” Done right, it is.
“We learn about the past to make the present make sense,” says Lorraine McConaghy, the museum’s historian. Here is a place that does history right in an exhibit worthy of the 21st century.