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Interpretation (an explanation as a way of teaching) is more effective
when it is applied in a planned and thematic way.
The Northwest Railway Museum’s Interpretive
Plan establishes guidelines for sharing interpretive themes used in messaging
and communication with visitors.
It shapes the major themes that will bring visitors to our
doors again and again over the years. It outlines the fa
cilities needed to support
the Museum’s collections and best enable the staff to effectively operate the
Museum in a sustainable and efficient manner. It imagines a dynamic institution
at the heart of the community—one in which the Northwest Railway Museum shares
the stories of people and railways that engage both area residents and visitors
from afar.
The Plan
codifies the Museum’s adherence to professional standards, best practices, and
codes of ethics as defined by the American Association of Museums and
American Association for State and Local History. In this way, activities and other forms of
implementation arise from a clear direction and documented list of tasks or
actions, all based on sound reasoning.

The Northwest Railway Museum began
development of the Railway History Campus in 2006, and continues i
ts growth. Staff
interpretive themes for the focus of exhibits. Beginning with the
original interpretive themes identified in the 2010-2012 Train Shed Exhibit Hall
exhibit planning, staff began expanding original interpretive themes to create
a cohesive plan for interpretation across the Museum’s sites. Exhibit topics
were selected based on workshop participation by the Executive Director, Deputy
Director, and Exhibits Committee during that period. This featured a multi-phase
exhibit plan for the Train Shed Exhibit Hall which included an exhibit sharing
how the development of the transcontinental railways fueled western expansion;
an exhibit on how railways then impacted the Pacific Northwest; interpretive
panels on each of the historic artifacts on display; and exhibits focusing on
how the railway impacted diverse groups of people. It c
onnected these themes to
exhibits at the Snoqualmie Depot; creating an exhibit about the first rai
into the Snoqualmie Valley, and connecting that exhibit to one on h
ow the Snoqualmie Depot impacted Snoqualmie. Between 2010-2019 the Museum completed the first three
phases and began working on the f
ourth phase with planned exhibits on
Stewardess Nurses, Japanese-American
Railway Workers, and Railway Workers of
WWII (the Faces of the Railway

The Museum’s mission
clearly describes two important themes: 1) the story of experiencing the
excitement of a working railway; interpreting ways that visitors can be
involved in the ongoing heritage and operations of trains.  And, 2) the story of how railroads influenced
the development and settlement of Washington State and adjacent areas;
interpreting how railways changed everything in the Pacific Northwest.

As the Museum has expanded exhibit offerings
within the Train Shed Exhibit Hall, the plans for a fourth building, the
Roundhouse Gallery, prompted the need to review and elaborate the Interpretive Plan
just as the former plan neared completion and was due for review. This has
coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic causing new social behavioral changes and
social gathering size restrictions, which have necessitated new ways of
envisioning traditional operating models.

Consequently, this spring the suspension of programming
caused by t
he Covid-19 pandemic redirected efforts and allowed the Interpretive
Plan and exhibits to be updated with additional content in the Train Shed
Exhibit Hall.  Now, as visitors
experience the Train Shed, they travel a directional route exploring how the
arrival of the transcontinental railway changed settlement patterns, foodways,
trade networks, leisure travel and industry. Additionally, they explore aspects
of what people working for the railway have experienced with new exhibits on
railway workers.  Additional exhibits
will be arriving later this fall and winter expanding upon these stories with
the installation of Asa Whitney’s Dream, an exhibit on railway car lighting,
and an exhibit on the Japanese and Japanese-Americ
an logging railway workers of
the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co.
Tickets to visit the Train Shed Exhibit Hall
are currently available at Shop.TrainMuseu


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