Exclusive peek into the MOHAI vault

Exclusive peek into the MOHAI vault

SEATTLE -- The pace of change in Seattle has been breathtaking. Have you ever turned a corner and thought, "Where am I? Where did that building go?"

If it makes you feel sad that there is nothing left of buildings like the Music Hall Theater, the Doghouse and the Kingdome -- prepare to cheer up. The Museum of History and Industry has saved precious bits of those landmarks and their experts are keeping them safe. However, you won't find most of MOHAI's treasures on display in the South Lake Union museum.

"We really only have the ability to show maybe two percent of the collection at any given time," says Leonard Garfield, MOHAI's Executive Director. Ninety-eight percent of Seattle's treasures are tucked away in a warehouse that isn't open to the public and MOHAI has never allowed video cameras inside – until now.

"You know Evening Magazine has a real scoop," Leonard says. "Because this is the story of Seattle as no one has ever seen it before."

The story begins with the actual spyglass that Arthur Denny took with him across the wilderness of America – before the pioneer founded Seattle. The latest treasure is a little less auspicious unless you are a fan of the heavy metal band Queensryche or JP Patches.  "It's kind of what I look at as Seattle culture colliding," says MOHAI Registrar Kristen Halunen as she unwraps a trash can lid covered in signatures. Queensryche members grew up in Bellevue as Patches Pals- and they signed the trash can lid for the kids' show clown who, you may remember, was the mayor of the city dump.

Within the MOHAI vault you will also find a huge old computer built by Boeing, the original UPS truck, the Husky helmet car and a glowing collection of neon signs. "This is the first neon sign in Seattle," Garfield says pointing with pride to the Post Intelligencer sign that predated the globe. It features a phone number. "If you called MAIN 2000 you might end up in the headlines the next morning." 

Other neon signs include the Doghouse which was an all-night diner beloved by reporters and club goers. And yes, the Doghouse tail still wags.

One of the most fragile collections in the MOHAI warehouse is textiles. There are tough, simple garments woven by pioneers, silly seagull hats favored by Victorians and silver lame uniforms worn during the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle. "This is what the operator wore if you got on the Bubbleator," explains textiles expert Clara Berg, as she unwraps a blousy silvery top. It is sparkly and mod just as you would expect from any elevator operator who takes you into the future. "The top has lots of Velcro in it which was only used by NASA at the time," Berg says.

MOHAI's ultimate goal is to rotate all their 100,000  treasures through the museum. But in the meantime, it's a comfort knowing that Seattle's flotsam and jetsam is safely stashed away-preserving this weird and wonderful place we call home.

 

 


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