Yakima Valley Museum
Good Morning Northwest with Elaine Irvin
The Yakima Valley Museum
This Yakima Valley Museum, located in Yakima’s beautiful Franklin Park, offers historical exhibits on the Yakima Valley—its natural history, Plateau cultural objects, pioneer life, early city life, and the roots and development of the Valley’s fruit industry. The museum has a superb collection of horse-drawn vehicles, from stagecoach to hearse; an historical exhibit and reconstruction of the Washington D.C. office of former Yakima resident and environmentalist, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas; and a changing schedule of special exhibitions.

The exhibits at the Yakima Valley Museum focus on the natural and cultural history of the Yakima Valley.

The people of the Yakima Valley have always depended upon the area's natural resources to exist and prosper.
  The Yakama Indians developed tools and techniques to secure, prepare, and preserve adequate food from the natural bounty of the local environment. Cattlemen who moved into the Yakima Valley in the 1800s used the native grasses to feed their livestock, but also made some of the first attempts to change the natural landscape by installing barbed wire fencing. And settlers arriving from other parts of North America quickly learned how irrigation made modern agriculture possible.

A collection of orchard equipment and related agricultural objects traces the history of agriculture in the Valley, from the earliest irrigated gardens planted by the Yakama Indians to the modern tree fruit and produce industry that has made the Yakima Valley the "fruitbowl of the nation." Collections of historic tools, appliances, furniture, and household items document Yakima Valley's material culture from the mid-19th century to the present.Home

Many people have made their home in the Yakima Valley. The customs and traditions of all these people, past and present, may be different, but all share the desire and need to have a place to call home. Visitors entering this area are greeted by a post-contact tipi, then enter the Mattoon family cabin. The Mattoons crossed the plains in the 1840s to settle in the Oregon Territory.  They left almost everything they owned behind when they moved to the newly tamed land where life was hard.  There were new opportunities in the Northwest frontier, but there were no guarantees...just the chance, and the hope, for a better life.


Individuals join together in communities to provide for the well being of all and because some individuals have special skills needed by others. Schools, local governments, police and fire protection agencies, and assorted retail businesses are established. Skilled professionals such as doctors, blacksmiths, and pharmacists become residents because they are able to make a living selling their services. Sports fields, community parks, and hotels are among the places where individuals come together to socialize and relax.


Communities are rarely able to exist in isolation. The Yakama Indians traded with other tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest to obtain things they did not have. After the arrival of white settlers, roads, the railroad, and eventually the airport made it easy for not only people, but also products and ideas developed elsewhere, to make their way into the Yakima Valley.


At the center of these core exhibits is a celebration of what Yakima Is, containing the spectacular Neon Garden, a collection of neon advertising art from Yakima Valley's past. As the central hub of the Museum it also serves as the Great Hall program space hosting programs and concerts throughout the year; call the museum or check the schedule. Exhibits planned for the surrounding area will highlight the people, sites, inventions, and images that together form our region’s unique identity.

An authentic reconstruction of the Washington D.C. office of Yakima native Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas interprets the life, accomplishments, and enduring legacy of this prolific and controversial statesman, environmentalist, and writer. And throughout the exhibits, many more people and products that made Yakima famous are brought to life.


The Yakima Valley Museum has an extensive collection of American Indian art, crafts, and artifacts, focusing especially on the tribes and bands of the Yakama Nation and neighboring cultures of the plateau region. The museum's collection of clothing and costume spans three centuries—a constantly growing selection of over 10,000 garments and clothing accessories providing an authentic record of work and leisure clothes, as well as high-style fashion, ethnic costume, and special event and ritual garments.

All exhibits are filled with objects from the museum collections—the real stuff. Unlike many new museums and interpretive centers, the Yakima Valley Museum prides itself on object-based exhibits that contain as many authentic objects as possible. The museum collections are the vocabulary with which we tell the stories of the Valley's past.

Time Tunnel


The Time Tunnel provides a glimpse of the Yakima Valley 10,000 to 25 million years ago. This was when our present local landscape was formed in a drama of lava flows and great glacial floods. Fossils hidden beneath our feet help reveal the unique animals which lived in the Yakima Valley during those years—mastodons, mammoths, giant camels, tiny horses, huge bison, and even a giant ground sloth.



In addition to the core museum exhibits, 5,000 square feet of gallery space is dedicated to changing exhibitions. Special touring exhibitions, as well as short-term exhibits supplementing the core exhibits, fill this adaptable gallery space.



The Helen N. Jewet Entrance Gallery features a Miocene Forest exhibit with four upright petrified trees. Visitors may also view what the landsape of Yakima was like 15 million years ago. Small temporary exhibit cases, basalt columns, and a framed view of the outside plantings are also featured in this space.



This children's museum is a hands-on learning center filled with educational activities and programs for kids of all ages. Interactive displays and constructive play areas provide an opportunity to step into the exhibits and experience the natural and cultural history of the Yakima Valley ...and have a great time learning!

Gilbert House


The H. M. Gilbert Homeplace, a late Victorian farmhouse filled with period furnishings, is only three blocks from the Yakima Valley Museum. This 1898 home of the Gilbert family gives a taste of life on an early Yakima orchard. Tours are currently not available. An exhibit about the Gilbert House is being planned in the Collections area of the museum.


The Sundquist Research Library and Archives is the Yakima Valley’s storehouse for over 40,000 historical documents, photographs, rare books, and other records. It is open to the researcher as well as the curious visitor. More than 12,000 images from this collection, as well as video and audio segments, are available for vieweing at the online resource Yakima Memory.

Museum Services

Soda Fountain

The Museum Soda Fountain is a functioning replica of a late 1930s Art Deco soda fountain. Furnished with salvaged and restored parts of soda fountains which once operated in Yakima, this piece of history serves ice cream treats and other fountain favorites for visitors to the museum and Franklin Park.


Museum Store

The Museum Store offers a unique assortment of gifts, souvenirs, toys, cards, and collectibles ...plus one of the best selections of books on local culture, history, and nature in Yakima.



The Yakima Valley Museum banquet and conference hall looks out on beautiful Franklin Park. Call for information on renting this unique space for your next social or business function. Also available to rent are a more intimate conference room, the spacious Helen N. Jewett Entrance Galler,y and the H.M. Gilbert Homeplace.

The Yakima Valley Museum is a member of the Washington Museums Association (WMA). To see a directory of Washington Museums, click here.

PLEASE NOTE that installation of the core exhibits began in summer of 2002 and will continue for several years. Until the completion of these exhibits, museum visitors will witness the process of exhibit research and development first-hand. Kiosks throughout the core galleries describe future plans and invite visitors to share their opinions, suggestions, and even their own personal stories and objects to the interpretive process.


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