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Special Exhibits

Temporary exhibits in the Great Room showcase objects from the Fort's permanent collection. They provide insights into the daily lives of the Fort's historical residents and into the workings of the Hudson's Bay Company, of which the Fort was part. All exhibits include hands-on activities for visitors of all ages.


Dr. Tolmie, the Physician
November 21, 2015 – April 30, 2016

“Doctor Tolmie arrived …to restore us to health”
-- Journal of Occurrences, May 27, 1837

William Fraser Tolmie, the manager of Fort Nisqually in the 1840s and 1850s, was a Glasgow-trained surgeon. The Hudson's Bay Company contracted with the young doctor in 1832 to fill a need for medical professionals in the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Tolmie, the Physician provides a brief tour of Tolmie's medical studies, including an internship in a cholera hospital, and then follows him as he arrives in the Pacific Northwest, just as malaria is delivering death to local Native Americans. The exhibit describes his work through the 1850s as he treats a variety of injuries, illnesses, and disease.

The exhibit is an interesting journey through the quirks of medical education in Scotland, the many inventive ways of purging a patient, and the devastating effects of disease -- both in Scotland and the Pacific Northwest -- during the early 1800s.

The display includes some of the tools and instruments of a 19th century doctor from the Fort's collection and from a private collection.

For young visitors, there will be a variety of hands on activities including a 3-D anatomy puzzle.


In Her Shoes: The Women of Fort Nisqually
May 7 – Sept. 10, 2016
The women of Fort Nisqually were the wives and children of company men – the managers and laborers of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Nearly all of the women had mixed Native American and Euro-American heritage. The women labored for their families and for the company. Some planted potatoes, washed the laundry, and cleaned wool. Others entertained visiting dignitaries.

This family-friendly exhibit explores the heritage and lives of the women at this early-mid 19th century settlement on Puget Sound. Follow the footprints to discover the stories of specific women, engage in hands-on activities, and witness their legacy.


Inspired by Fort Nisqually
Sept. 17, 2016 – January 7, 2017
Photographers, illustrators, painters, and traditional craftspeople find inspiration in Fort Nisqually, as it is today -- a living history museum -- and in its history as the first non-native settlement on Puget Sound.  This juried exhibition will showcase the work of local and regional artists.

  • Artwork may be inspired by the fort as it is today -- gardens brimming with heritage crops, reenactors dressed in period clothes, and restored and reconstructed mid-1800s buildings.
  • Artwork may demonstrate or reinterpret the traditional 19th century arts that found expression at the fort -- beadwork, leatherwork, needlework, etc.
  • Artwork may be an interpretation or commentary on the history of the fort -- its people or events. 

Submissions are due July 29. For rules and submission form, click here.