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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.

Current Exhibit

undefinedCommerce on the Cowlitz: Trade, Transportation and Territorial Transition
June 8-October 12, 2019
The need for trade and reliable transportation in Washington Territory changed a corridor of commerce from a native trail to a major highway. Native trade was conducted along the Cowlitz trail, bringing goods between the Puget Sound and the Columbia River. The Cowlitz Tribe regulated the trade as it passed through their territory making them very rich and powerful. The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) utilized the route as the easiest form of entry into southwestern Washington, moving furs between forts Vancouver and Nisqually. The trail was expanded as the fur trade declined in the late 1830s and transportation needs began to refolve around agriculture. American settement brought more change as the route was difficult for wagons to travel. The newly formed territorial government tasked the military with cutting a road to increase emigrant travel and ease military maneuvers.

Past Exhibits

undefinedThe Art of Agriculture: September 22, 2018 - Spring
Even while the laborers toiled in the swamp for the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, a romantic idea of life in the countryside was popular among the 19th century upper classes. This exhibit will explore the contrasts between raising cattle and sheep as depicted in artwork with the realities of life on Nisqually farm.

A Child’s-Eye View of Fort Nisqually: May 12 – September 16, 2018
Of the many people who lived at Fort Nisqually, the children of the managers and laborers often go overlooked. Explore the operations of this trading and agricultural center from a child’s perspective, learning about the chores, education, and the adventures of daily life for boys and girls in the 1850s. Experience the past through a different angle at this family friendly exhibit. 

Firearms of the Fur Trade Era: January 13 – May 6, 2018undefined
From Native Americans and fur traders to farmers and laborers, firearms as tools were a part of everyday life in the 19th century. Explore the craftsmanship and function of these artifacts, and learn about the changes in firearms over the course of the rise and fall of the Pacific Northwest fur trade. Historic firearms from Fort Nisqually’s Sutt Collection will be featured in







Tolmie the Ethnographer: September 23, 2017 - January 7, 2018
This exhibit is the third in a series examining different aspects of Fort manager William Fraser Tolmie’s work and interests. This exhibit focuses on Tolmie’s personal collection of ethnographic objects, such as baskets, and his role in writing down the native languages he encountered in the Pacific Northwest. Artifacts on display will include Pacific Northwest Coast baskets, beadwork, and the 1884 book Comparative Vocabularies of the Indian Tribes of British Columbia co-authored by W. Fraser Tolmie and Canadian anthropologist George M. Dawson.




From the Islands to the Inland Sea: Hawaiians at Fort Nisqually
May 13 - September 17, 2017
This family-friendly exhibit explores how Hawaiian laborers brought to the Pacific Northwest by the Hudson’s Bay Company left a lasting legacy in communities throughout the region. Try your hand at some of the tasks the workers did around Fort Nisqually, such as pressing wool into bundles, and learn about the maritime networks that reached across the Pacific Ocean.