Learn About Creative Reuse in Tacoma

Photo by Nancy Judd

The Washington State History Museum in Tacoma is always a great place to go for information about the history of Washington State and the broader Pacific Northwest, and a new exhibit there seeks to highlight one part of this history that many people may not know about. The Make/Do exhibit, which will be open until Dec. 6, 2018, showcases the different ways people throughout history have used old materials to make something new.

When you enter the exhibit, you’ll be dazzled by light and color. A multicolored light-up sign bears the exhibit’s name, and directly below it sits a bicycle formerly owned by Tacoma icon Jack Falk. Adorned with stuffed animals, Christmas tinsel, multiple license plates and other knickknacks, the bike perfectly embodies the theme of turning found objects into art.

The first room you enter contains a timeline of creative reuse throughout the United States, beginning in 1760 and stretching all the way to 2017, the year that Tacoma banned plastic bags. The timeline is written on pieces of cardboard placed inside old picture frames that would otherwise have been thrown away. This speaks to Director of Audience Engagement Mary Mikel Stump’s vision for the exhibit. She explained that not only does Make/Do talk the talk about reusing materials, but it also walks the walk by incorporating them into the exhibit itself.

After you’ve learned your fill from the timeline, move on into the main exhibit, which contains over 180 artifacts collected from museums and historical societies from around the state of Washington. The artifacts are organized by material into sections, which include organics, wood, paper, metal, plastics and fabric.

The artifacts, unlike those present in many of the historical exhibits put on by the museum, are not intended to tell a narrative story, and are not all from long ago. Instead, as Stump explains, they make the argument that Washington and the rest of the Pacific Northwest have a long history of creative reuse that still continues today. She hopes visitors will be reminded that history is not something that only occurs in the past but is still happening in the present.

On your way out of the exhibit, check out the makerspace, which was created in partnership with local nonprofit Earthwise Architectural Salvage. Visitors of any age can use the materials provided to create their own project and connect firsthand with the themes of the exhibit.

To learn more about Make/Do, go to washingtonhistory.org/makedo. To plan the rest of  your trip to Tacoma, visit traveltacoma.com.