Collections from Washington National Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in Washington. We invite you to explore museum collections from Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park- Seattle Unit, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, Olympic National Park, San Juan Inland National Historical Park, and Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

Uncovered in an archeological excavation, this rice bowl may have belonged to a Chinese tenant farmer or laborer. Chinese laborers began arriving in Puget Sound late in the 19th century, part of a larger diaspora spurred by wars and famine in mainland China. The farmlands of Ebey’s Prairie on Whidbey Island provided work to a small community of Chinese men that retained their cultural connections through frequent visits to the Chinese communities in Port Townsend and Seattle. Prevented from bringing their families to the United States by the 1882 Exclusion Act, familiar household objects such as this bowl would have provided comforting reminders of home for a laborer far away from loved ones.

Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site, EBLA 2935

How did a brick from Roman Britain end up in today’s Washington state?

This Roman brick from Britain, imprinted by a mischievous feline while still wet, found its way to the Pacific Northwest when the Hudson’s Bay Company ordered bricks from England to build Fort Vancouver.

The Hudson’s Bay Company, a London-based fur trading powerhouse, established Fort Vancouver in 1825 as its western headquarters in North America. The new fort administered two dozen posts spread over an area of approximately 700,000 square miles – from Russian Alaska to Mexican California, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast. At its peak, Fort Vancouver had several hundred employees whose homelands spanned half the globe.

Despite being self-sufficient in many ways – Fort Vancouver had an extensive farm, tradesmen of various specialities, and a shipyard – tons of goods were imported from England every year. The company shop had an inventory of hundreds of items, including dishes, preserved food, fabric, jewelry, guns and ammunition, and other essentials and sundries. Bricks, used in building Fort Vancouver’s powder magazine, ovens, and chimneys, doubled as ship’s ballast on the way over.

This brick, whose size and composition suggest it was “recycled” from a Roman building or wall, helped fill a brickmaker’s order from the Hudson’s Bay Company. It is a humble artifact that tells a story of industrial development, global trade networks, colonial settlement, and one inquisitive cat.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, FOVA 32838

Gold was discovered in the Yukon Territory in 1896, and the majority of people heading to the goldfields passed through Seattle. Many jewelry items and trinkets, like this charm bracelet, were made with Klondike Gold, and continue to be valuable today. The bracelet charms include a small gold pan, a pick and shovel crossed, and a square bucket with a handle. The bucket and gold pan each have three initials inscribed in the outside bottom in very elaborate script. The donor reports the initials on the pan belong to her grandmother, Phoebe Jane Hoover, and the bucket belong to Phoebe's niece, Maud E. Forcey.

Klondike Gold Rush-Seattle Unit National Historic Park, KLSE 396

This 45-star United States flag flew over the United States Post Office at the town of Peach, Washington. Mrs. Sadie Young Long, born at the Peach Post Office, donated the flag to Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area in 1970. Located at the confluence of Hawk Creek and the Columbia River, about 300 people Iived in Peach in 1917. Produce from the town's peach, plum, apricot, pear, apple, and cherry orchards were shipped by rail to North Dakota, Nebraska, and Illinois. Along with the orchards, Peach had a school, hotel, church, and gas station.

After construction of the Grand Coulee Dam began on July 16, 1933, Bureau of Reclamation survey crews determined that Peach would be displaced by the dam's reservoir. Peach was the first town cleared by WPA and CCC workers with residents required to evacuate the area by January 1, 1939. The Peach Post Office was officially decommissioned on April 9, 1939 and by 1941 the remains of Peach had disappeared beneath the waters of Lake Roosevelt. While other area towns inundated by the reservoir relocated to higher ground, the town of Peach did not relocate. The site of Peach now sits approximately 230 feet beneath the surface of Lake Roosevelt.

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, LARO 1074


The Climbing Rangers at Mount Rainier National Park were authorized to wear this style of hat as part of their official park service uniform. The hat is styled after those worn by mountaineers. In the 1930s Mount Rainier hosted a series of Silver Ski races and the 1935 Winter Olympic Ski Trials. The pins on this hat highlight these races and the comradery that existed between the nations represented at the Ski Trials, such as the pin with the ice axe from Val Gardena and the silver ski pin with Rainier National Park.

Mount Ranier National Park, MORA 18684

This microblade was found at the oldest known archaeological site in North Cascades National Park. Evidence uncovered at Cascade Pass tells us that crossings of the rugged North Cascade mountains by Native peoples began at least 9,600 years ago. Prehistoric peoples returned repeatedly to the site and crossing the pass became a traditional cultural activity embedded in the histories and oral traditions of many tribes living on both sides of the range. Today park visitors can still cross the pass on foot as people did thousands of years ago.

Microblades such as this would have been attached to a handle, much like a present-day knife. Multiple blades would have been chipped from a single piece of quartz. The angled ridge to the right of the artifact tells archaeologists that this was one of many blades that were chipped from the same core. Quartz crystal is common in the North Cascades, so it is likely that the maker found his or her source material close to the site.

North Cascades National Park, NOCA 26443a

This wolf headdress is carved from western red cedar, decorated with human hair, and has twine made of nettles to secure it on top of the head when in use. This type of headdress was worn during the “Wolf Ritual,” a spiritual ceremony performed by many tribes along the Pacific Northwest. In 2011, this headdress was the frontispiece for the Seattle Art Museum exhibit “The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves”, which explored the Quileute Tribe’s traditional relationship to wolves. Wolves are not currently present in Olympic National Park-they were hunted out in the early 1900s. Studies have been undertaken to determine the feasibility of restoring wolves to their native habitat, although no actions are planned at this time.

Olympic National Park, OLYM 51

With the Oregon Treaty of 1846, the boundary between the United States and British North America (Canada) was settled at the 49th parallel. Great Britain retained Vancouver Island, which dipped below that latitude. A water boundary was prescribed to run through “the middle of the channel,” dividing Vancouver Island from the mainland.“ Since there are three channels, so this vague wording left the fate of the San Juan Islands undecided.
San Juan Island, seven miles across the Haro Strait from the British colonial capital of Victoria, was the focus of mounting tensions that culminated in a crisis triggered in 1859. An American shot a pig owned by the Hudson's Bay Company, which in 1853 had established a farm on the island. The so-called ”Pig War" nearly led to fighting between the US Army and Royal Navy. Instead of war, the nations agreed to a joint military occupation that maintained the peace for more than a decade. The British garrison, 13 miles north of the American camp, was composed of a detachment of Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI). The dispute was resolved in 1872 through binding arbitration by Kaiser Wilheml I of Germany, who placed the boundary on the ­Haro Strait, thus granting the San Juan Islands to the United States. The RMLI withdrew from the island, bringing the joint occupation to an end.

This crest was affixed to a shako the tall, cylindrical dress hat worn by Royal Marines. The crest includes features that symbolize their history and honors—including the Lion and Crown, Gibraltar, Globe and Laurel, and Fouled Anchor—as well as the corps' motto of Per mare Per Terram, which translates to “By Sea, By Land”. The crest was found during an archeological excavation in the 1970s.

San Juan Island National Historical Park, SAJH 147131

The ní•ckawˀ is a powerful icon of feminine knowledge, caregiving, and matrilineal heritage. In continuing weyí•letpu•m tradition, woven hats like this are worn by those women who gather the first fruits and vegetables for feasts of thanksgiving during which ní•ckawˀ are worn in honor. Some older women wear these hats as a mark of distinction during other gatherings too, always as indicator of adherence to traditional laws, or tamá•lwit. Often passed from generation to generation of women, just like tamá•lwit governing sustainable agriculture, these hats transcend individual lives, representing long lines of knowledge and care.

Marcus Whitman collected this masterfully woven ní•ckawˀ during his mission work among the Cayuse Nation. The hat signifies tension between Whitman’s adherence to commandment to take dominion over the earth and the tamá•lwit represented by this ní•ckawˀ, a reciprocity between humans and the earth, led to the mission’s failure. This early conflict between a rapidly expanding United States and the Cayuse Nation was precursor to the devastating changes that followed under Manifest Destiny.

Today, the women who wear these ní•ckawˀ and practice tamá•lwit face incredible challenges to their continued stewardship of the lands and foods provided them. Introduced agriculture has overtaken most highly fertile root-bearing areas; fencing and “Private Property” signs bar access to many areas that remain; aerial herbicide application poisons the native foods on adjacent public or tribal land, and the commercialization of native foods like huckleberries upsets long-standing balances. Climate change threatens traditional growing seasons and availability. Today, then, ní•ckawˀ also represent the tenacity demonstrated by those women who continue to carry out tamá•lwit on our behalf.

Whitman Mission National Historic Site, WHMI 34570

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from: Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park- Seattle Unit, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, Olympic National Park, San Juan Inland National Historical Park, and Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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