Escape room at Fort Nisqually wins state history award

Fort Nisqually

forttrappedvertical“Trapped: Escape Fort Nisqually”begins its third, three-month season in January


It’s one thing to observe historical interpreters portraying life as it was in a mid-19th century. It’s another to figuratively go back in time to solve a mystery using historical clues.

Since its debut in 2017, “Trapped: Escape Fort Nisqually” has turned local history into an adventure for more than 1,000 escape room players.

The attraction’s success in engaging new audiences prompted the Washington State Historical Society to honor Fort Nisqually Living History Museum with its 2018 David Douglas award.

The award recognizes the significant contribution of an individual or an organization through projects, exhibits, educational products or any other vehicle that informs or expands appreciation of state history.

Fort Nisqually is among seven winners of annual awards to be presented during the society’s yearly meeting on September 22.

“I’m proud of the innovative ways Fort Nisqually is connecting people to history and to be honored by the Washington State Historical Society is a testament to the wonderful work of Metro Parks Tacoma staff,” said Andrea Smith, president of the five-member Metro Parks Board of Commissioners.

The game was developed in partnership with Labyrinth Escape Games, a Portland enterprise owned by a former museum volunteer, Andrew Lind. During his high school years, Lind participated in the Fort’s apprentice interpreter program. His background and hands-on experience made him a natural partner in the game’s creation.

“Trapped: Escape Fort Nisqually” is a high energy, hourlong suspense game in which as many as eight players find clues and solve puzzles to escape from a room in one of Fort Nisqually’s historic structures, Trapped is based on actual events that occurred at the original Fort in 1853.  Puzzles are drawn from primary source documents in the museum’s archives. Participants play by candlelight and are immersed in a 19th century environment.

Metro Parks Tacoma’s goal in producing the escape room was to create an innovative educational experience that engaged new audiences. The goal was to create an attraction that would draw people who either had never visited the living history museum, or hadn’t visited in a long time. As it turned out, a survey of 2017 players showed that 51 percent had never been to Fort Nisqually.

“Trapped: Escape Fort Nisqually” received five stars in online reviews from players who came to Fort Nisqually from as far away as Pullman and San Francisco. They included people who played in period costume, or as families, and some to celebrate birthdays or as part of a team-building activity. “I loved how it felt as though we’d stepped back in time. It was a magical night,” one player wrote.

Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, located in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park, is a restoration of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s outpost on Puget Sound. With the help of costumed interpreters, guests experience life in Washington Territory during the 1850s. Nine buildings are open to the public, including the Granary and the Factors House, both national historic landmarks, and a visitor center with museum store.

The 2019 season of “Trapped: Escape Fort Nisqually” begins in January. Tickets go on sale in November.

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