The Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) is a history museum located in the South Lake
neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. MOHAI is the largest private heritage organization in the
State of Washington maintaining a collection of nearly 4 million artifacts, photographs, and archival
materials that primarily focus on Seattle and the greater Puget Sound region. A portion of this
collection is on display in the museum's galleries at the historic Naval Reserve Armory in Lake
Highlights include Boeing's first commercial plane, the 1919 Boeing B-1; the Petticoat Flag, an 1856 American Flag sewn by women during the Battle of Seattle; and the Rainier Brewing Company's 12-foot tall neon "R" sign. In addition to both permanent and temporary exhibits, MOHAI administers ongoing youth and adult programming, and regularly hosts public events in partnership with other community organizations, particularly within the South Lake Union neighborhood. MOHAI is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is a Smithsonian affiliate museum.
In 1911, Morgan and Emily Carkeek hosted the first annual Founder's Day party at their home, which was an invitation-only event where guests dressed in historic costumes and brought artifacts and documents related to early Seattle. An outcome of these parties was the establishment of the Seattle Historical Society in 1914, the membership of which was limited to white settlers and their descendants.
The Seattle Historical Society lacked a building to house their museum. Several attempts to find a permanent location were abandoned because of challenging financial circumstances, especially during the Depression, and the fact that the original society members were aging and new members were hard to come by. The collection continued to grow, however. In 1945, Boeing offered $50,000 towards an aviation wing, and over the next 5 years, the Society successfully procured its former site in Montlake. During this time the Society became a more public and civically-minded institution, opening up the Founder's day to community and service organizations. The new museum opened in 1952.
Over the last 50 years, the museum has experienced ups and downs. Management practices of the museum and collections, membership, and the relationship to its immediate surroundings, have also been problematic over the years. Changes in the 1980s that moved the museum forward in a positive direction included developing new exhibits and reaching out to underrepresented communities, but were a shock to older staff and board members. During the 1990s the museum gradually recovered from these internal challenges, as well as financial ones, and began expanding educational and community outreach programs.
Due to the impending reconstruction of SR-520, MOHAI was forced to move from its original home in the Montlake neighborhood. After initially exploring options to move near the Washington State Convention Center, MOHAI and the City of Seattle came to agreement for MOHAI to move to the Naval Reserve Armory in what was soon to be Lake Union Park. At that time the building was being managed by the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department and was in need of significant repairs to be usable as a public museum space.
Through a $90 million capital campaign, MOHAI did a full historic restoration of the facility, uncovering both the original ceiling and floor and conducting massive safety, accessibility, and systems upgrades. The project also included centralizing MOHAI's library and collections departments in a warehouse in the Georgetown neighborhood. In June 2012 the museum closed its Montlake location. Six months later, on December 29, 2012, the museum held a public grand opening for its new home in South Lake Union.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Museum. The only downside of the visit was parking. Parking in Seattle is at a premium and most places you pay by the hour. We will figure out how to use their transit system for our next visit.
Open daily from 10am to 5pm
Thursdays open 10am to 8pm
Closed at 2pm on Dec 24th and Dec 31st
Museum of History & Industry
860 Terry Avenue North