Ocryx and Joe

Ocryx and Joe visit the Washington State History Museum

The Storyline is great, but something is missing...
posted Jan 14, 2011
The WSHM as investigated by our favorite corvids.
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Don't get me wrong, I love the Washington State History Museum down on Pacific Avenue. It's much easier to get to than the old facility on Stadium Way, it is seamlessly tied architecturally to adjacent Union Station and the surrounding warehouse district, and was a critical element in the revitalization of the city in the mid 1990's, due largely in part by the actions of then WSHS Director David Nicandri and City Preservation Officer Michael Sullivan.

Although you might hear me gripe about it from time to time, the storyline exhibit was absolutely necessary to give an accessible coherent and sequential history of the state, and is why school groups are bussed in from all over the western half of the state to visit it.


Where's the rest of the stuff?  People go to museums to see collections of things, not mannequins painted monochromatic beige and a plethora of mounted photographs. They want to see the firearms collection, the Hugenot silver, the miniature circus, the print shop, the eskimo artifacts, the spirit boards, and yes- the mummy. Beige mannequins they can see at Nordstroms. Photographs they can see in a book or on the interwebs.

The rotating galleries provide ample space for travelling exhibits. So where are the outstanding exhibits such as "Magnificent Voyagers"?

I think what happened was that all of the public good will was wasted on that stupid fence blocking the bridge of glass.

BREAKING NEWS FLASH- The museum's mummy, Ankh Unnofi (or Wennefer), did not get sent back to Egypt- he merely got taken off display to conform with modern AAM (American Assosciation of Museums) standards regarding human remains. Come see him in the temporary "Mummies of Egypt" exhibit!

(And the model train layout is pretty darned cool, too.)



by NineInchNachos on 1/14/2011 @ 7:53am
the details in this comic are like pennies raining down from the rainbow bridge.

by NineInchNachos on 1/14/2011 @ 8:19am
IN 1990 a crack historian unit WSHS Director David Nicandri and City Preservation Officer Michael Sullivan were convicted of a crime they did not commit, they promptly escaped a historical prison stockade in port Townsend to the Tacoma underground. Today, still wanted by Christine Gregoire, they survive as historians of fortune. If you have a history problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... the wsH-Team!

(thanks O&J you've inspired my next cartoon)

by The Jinxmedic on 1/14/2011 @ 9:28am
Uh, oh- I sense a TACOMIC being formulated...

by fredo on 1/14/2011 @ 10:15am
wonderful drawing jinx with lots of amusing detail.

the old museum had stuff that was interesting though perhaps had no particular historic import. I remember a table on display that some old timer in Tacoma made out of hundreds of different types of wood.

i read some criticisms about the new museum. especially the time line thing designed by manifest destiny apologists, the beige mannequins and the photographs in lieu of actual items. As big as that place is, it should have lots more to look at. We can use our ipads to look at pictures and maps and our kindles to study history, the museum really can't charge people for stuff they can pull up on their enabled devices for nothing.

by ALT on 1/14/2011 @ 11:22am
For the four plus years that I've lived here I've never been to Tacoma's History Museum, because from what I've heard, it's pretty damn boring. If it was possible, I am even less motivated now.

Ah yes - that pointless fence. Just what is the logic behind a fence that partially obstructs entry to the Bridge of Glass? It doesn't keep anyone out; it only serves as an annoyance, forcing people to go around it. What IS the purpose of that thing?

Great cartoon, Jinx. :)

by The Jinxmedic on 1/14/2011 @ 11:22am
The AAM model which is so reliant on multi-media presentation (at the cost of presenting actual material culture), is a product of the pre-internet 1980's.

Once you have the History Channel, Google, Wikipedia, and You Tube to play with, the AAM multi-media model was effectively made obsolescent faster than a Radio Shack TRS-80, even with an upgrade to 16K of RAM on the motherboard.

A truly modern museum plan MUST look to the past- and a good place to start is to revisit the "wunderkammer" exhibits that enthralled the Victorian and Edwardian crowds.

Yes, there is still a necessary place for the storyline. However, people WANT TO SEE STUFF.

(oh, and take down the fence, already).

by The Jinxmedic on 1/14/2011 @ 11:26am
Thanks, UA.

You really should go to the museum (at least on one of the free days, if nothing else). There is still some neat stuff in there, and the model railroad layout is really quite nice. (It's just hard for me when I know the kind of incredible things that they USED to have...)

by seejane on 1/14/2011 @ 11:56am
BRING BACK THE JUNK - I'd pay to go see it.
The beige people and the blond wood replicas are insanely stupid.

by Erik on 1/14/2011 @ 12:18pm
What do you think of these possible additions to the WSHM Jinx?


by The Jinxmedic on 1/14/2011 @ 12:45pm
Erik is exactly right.

The WSHM should by all means have a special permanent 19th century styled "Wunderkammer gallery" dedicated to curiosities, oddities, pygmy mummies, and eclectic framed collections of bizzare objects. I guarantee that you will increase museum patronage with such a thing. You might even get the next SteamCon to book the Murano -if there could be a private night in the Wunderkammer gallery...

by NineInchNachos on 1/14/2011 @ 1:01pm

a picture is worth a 1000 words.

by NineInchNachos on 1/14/2011 @ 1:01pm

by NineInchNachos on 1/14/2011 @ 1:01pm

by NineInchNachos on 1/14/2011 @ 1:01pm

by NineInchNachos on 1/14/2011 @ 1:02pm

by The Jinxmedic on 1/14/2011 @ 1:26pm

by Jesse on 1/14/2011 @ 3:07pm
How about this one...


by NineInchNachos on 1/14/2011 @ 3:45pm
you can't beat an alligator man. maybe a Fiji mermaid?

by seejane on 1/14/2011 @ 4:57pm
if only the museum could get Jake the Alligator Man from Long Beach....

by fredo on 1/14/2011 @ 11:13pm
RE: the beige people

My kids were scared of this display so we always rushed past them. Doubt if most visitors will be patient enough to stand there and listen to the tedious story ("the white people....blah blah blah....cheated...blah blah blah...stole...blah blah"). Most people are anxious to get inside and see the cool stuff. Alas most everything is a mock up of something cool or a photograph. Kind of let down after paying a pretty substantial entrance fee. Kind of like going to a topless bar and discovering the hired help was all men.

by Mofo from the Hood on 1/16/2011 @ 12:13pm
The Fence, The Fence, The Fence...

Oh sure, there are those that would revel in glee if The Fence was ripped from the landscape like a Luzon.

If I were to join the ranks of those madmen then I too would be just as mad.

by The Jinxmedic on 1/18/2011 @ 8:11am
I'm serious. A permanent "Wunderkammer Gallery" would go a long way in generating some traffic and interest in the museum. Such a gallery could display all manner of oddities and cased collections (some of which may still be in curatorial storage at WSHS facilities), with sections that could be rotated with travelling curiosities on loan from other museums- keeping the Wunderkammer fresh with new attractions.

This "Olde Curiousity Shoppe" type of concept has been frowned upon by the AAM crowd as "lowbrow", but face it- lowbrow sells admissions. (What's the most attended event in the Tacoma Dome? The Monster Truck Rally. Enough said.) And besides, the Washington State History Storyline would remain intact in the main gallery (and hopefully improved with the inclusion of more material culture...). What I'm talking about is jam-packing one of the usually empty side gallery spaces in the museum to recreate a spooky but wonderful19th century private museum experience. It's a natural for the warehouse district, and would give art students from the UWT an unlimited number of things to sit down and draw.

People would bring out-of-town guests to such a gallery to see mummified cats, various victorian gadgetry, cased butterfly collections, dioramas of stuffed squirrels playing poker, and haunted Ouija boards. Hype the legend of the old museum's haunting by Mary Todd Lincoln (no kidding), and of the night security guards that quit in the middle of their first shift on the job. This is the stuff of legends, and this is the stuff that people want to see. HOW many ghost-hunting shows are on television right now? Exactly.

Build it, and they will come.

by NineInchNachos on 1/18/2011 @ 8:22am
I second.

After the monster trucks, they'd love to see deformed fetal pigs i wager.

by The Jinxmedic on 1/18/2011 @ 8:39am
As far as a Wunderkammer, the best thing we have going in town now, is the American Museum of Alaskan Entrepreneurship located at the headquarters of the famed Holistic Forge Works.

(This is an appointment-only kind of place and is rather small, but is EXACTLY the right kind of thinking for a major 19th century-styled permanent gallery of curiosities and cased collections.)

Imagine this look- but in a huge gallery, with wall-to-wall STUFF!

Since a Wunderkammer Gallery at the WSHM would be all behind glass, the gallery could be a safely rented space for private parties, fundraisers, and steampunk events- and could even host special performances of Circus Contraption's Travelling Dime Museum Show!

by NineInchNachos on 1/18/2011 @ 8:41am
finally a home for crazy old man LeMay's sausage press fetish collection!

by The Jinxmedic on 1/19/2011 @ 11:01am
That sausage press collection (I saw some of those at the LeMay residence in Spanaway once) would be exactly the kind of thing that you would have in a cased display in a Wunderkammer, ideally located next to the stuffed two-headed piglets, calves, and what-not. I'm telling you, this idea would work - and it would not impact the storyline in the main gallery in the slightest. (except perhaps, increasing visitation thereof).

by NineInchNachos on 1/19/2011 @ 12:32pm
manual sausage grinders are GREEN and good exercise

by The Jinxmedic on 1/20/2011 @ 12:39pm
The message that "multi-media is not the answer to the modern museum" is starting to perculate through the museum world. Here is a recent entry on one of mty favorite museum blogs: blog.orselli.net/2011/01/myth-of-multita...

(yes, I actually read museum blogs, and still closely follow trends on the AAM and WMA. I can't bill myself as a "museum consultant" if I don't keep abreast of things now, can I?)

by The Jinxmedic on 4/1/2011 @ 5:03pm
Reminder- if you haven't been to the Washington State History Museum- go NOW. Take a copy of this cartoon with you, and see how many of the things shown on it you can find. Some of them are still there! Take the time to talk to the curatorial staff, ask them about their dreams for the facility. Ask how long they have been working there, ask them how many years in succession their budget has been cut back, how many pay freezes or cuts they have taken over the past twenty years. Take the opportunity to talk about the Wunderkammer plan, and suggest that fence should go away. Ask if they remember back when David Nicandri still looked like John Astin's Gomez Addams. Envision a future past the beige, but go NOW- as NOW is the time to show your support for our museum.

by NineInchNachos on 4/1/2011 @ 5:07pm
capitol suggestion!

by The Jinxmedic on 4/1/2011 @ 5:15pm
Seriously, go visit the museum THIS WEEKEND. Especially all of you that have never been there.

by NineInchNachos on 6/23/2011 @ 8:19am
"Nicandri's building was closed that day, evidence of recent budget reductions. But the fact that it would be open the next day reflects Nicandri's final chore, the one that delayed his retirement by a year. He led the quiet-yet-successful campaign to scuttle Gov. Chris Gregoire's plan to close the history museum completely."

Read more: www.thenewstribune.com/2011/06/22/171673...

by The Jinxmedic on 6/23/2011 @ 9:07am
I thank David Nicandri for his long and faithful service. We started at the WSHS Stadium Way facility at nearly the same time in 1987 - it has been awhile, hasn't it?