A Myriad of Museums

Exploring the eccentric, the exceptional, and everything in between.

Valentinetti Puppet Museum

 - Northwest museumsUpon entering the Valentinetti Puppet Museum in Bremerton, you are greeted by a 10-foot-tall Pinocchio puppet, motioning you to enter. He may be the largest and most assuming puppet on display here, but he also is just one of about 2,000 cycling through the museum.

The museum is one of only a few spaces dedicated to celebrating the art of puppetry, said Mary Hamlin, who served on the museum’s board of directors for 14 years and now manages the gift shop. Because this focus is so rare, Hamlin said, the museum is often welcoming international visitors, many of whom have a connection to puppets or are puppeteers themselves.

“Puppeteers are so amazing,” Hamlin said. “They have both a scientific mind and a theatric mind. They can create things beyond my imagination and then perform with them.”

After walking up a flight of stairs from the Kitsap County Historical Society building, guests will find an array of wooden faces positioned behind glass display cases containing marionettes and rod puppets leading around in a circle, with puppet stages and coin-operated machines at the center. The space is small, and every corner is filled with exotic and expressive characters.

Valentinetti Puppet Museum - Northwest museumsThe museum was named in honor of Aurora Valentinetti, a distinguished puppeteer and Seattle native, for her contribution from her personal collection of puppets to help found the museum, said museum curator Stanley Hess. Valentinetti taught children’s theater and puppetry for more than 50 years, including at the University of Washington, where Hess was her pupil. Valentinetti just celebrated her 97th birthday and now resides in Wenatchee.

“She is a major figure in puppetry in the Northwest and an important influence,” he said.

The biggest misconception about puppetry, Hess said, is that it’s meant solely for the amusement of children. Although it can be a helpful teaching aid for youth, puppetry has been used to communicate morals and traditions to all ages for centuries. Primitive puppets date back as early as the 5th century in Greece, and records of puppets can be found across the globe. The museum features puppets from the early 1900s, from places as far off as Japan and China.

“The collections and exhibits that I put together are meant to highlight the puppet as an artifact, as a means of storytelling,” Hess said. “And puppetry continues to do that today.”

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the museum in November, Hess is putting together a special exhibit, including puppets from a University of Washington production of Alice in Wonderland from the 1930s.

So, take a tour of this strange and special space, examine the historical stringed characters, the stage props, and back drops, and let the little ones put on their own hand puppet show on the gift shop stage.


Living Computers Museum

Tech enthusiasts: The largest collection of fully restored and functional supercomputers, mainframes, minicomputers, and microcomputers can be found here at the Living Computers Museum. You can experience classic computers as well as futuristic exhibits on virtual reality, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, and more. Seattle

Living Computers Museum - Northwest museums

Courtesy Living Computers Museum + Labs


Pacific Bonsai Museum

Walking around the gardens of the Pacific Bonsai Museum gives a sense of being out in nature and, at the same time, in a fine art museum. With roots in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Canada, and the United States, this bonsai collection is the most diverse in North America. Federal Way

Pacific Bonsai Museum - Northwest museums

Courtesy Pacific Bonsai Museum


World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame

If a windy day in the Northwest makes you want to hit the nearest park with a kite in tow, this is the museum for you. Kite enthusiasts will be flying high with delight over the exhibits and annual Washington State International Kite Festival held at this museum. Long Beach


Seattle Pinball Museum

The Seattle Pinball Museum feels more like an arcade than a museum. Established to create a space for pinball enthusiasts to share their passion, it allows visitors to play vintage machines dating back from as early as 1934. With 50 machines rotating periodically, this museum visit will be unlike any other. Seattle


Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation Museum

This museum is a fully functional demonstration farm, meaning you can explore an operational cranberry bog while eating cranberry ice cream from the latest harvest, and simultaneously learn all about the history and industry behind your favorite little red berry. Long Beach


Tacoma Telephone Pioneer Museum

Take a break from staring at your smart phone and admire some pioneer telephones. This museum is full of old switchboards, crank telephones, and more. It even features the first cordless telephone from the Seattle World’s Fair in 1961. Tacoma


Nutcracker Museum

How many different ways are there to crack a nut? At the Nutcracker Museum, there are more than 6,000 tools designed to do just that. It features everything from a Shakespearean nutcracker character to ancient nutting stones from the archaic period (estimated to be at least 4,000 years old). Leavenworth

Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum - Northwest museums

Courtesy The Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum


SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention

Flashes of lightning from a 9-foot-tall Tesla coil, hair-raising static electricity, and music from the first electronic instrument are a few of the exhibits on display at this museum. SPARK is dedicated to educating visitors on the history and science of electricity with early electrical inventions and modern applications. Bellingham

SPARK Museum - Northwest museums

Courtesy SPARK Museum


Pioneer Farm Museum

Get out your boots and bonnets for a visit to the Pioneer Farm Museum. Here, you can experience what homesteading was like in Washington in the 1880s with barn animals, log cabins, a native village, and all the trimmings of pioneer life. Eatonville


Museums We Know and Love

(And What They’re Up to Now)


Washington State Historical Society

You won’t believe your eyes at Sleight of Hand: Magic and Spiritualism in the Early 20th Century. This exhibit showcases the showmen and women who performed illusions throughout the Pacific Northwest and the historical impact of magic as a platform. Tacoma

Museum of History & Industry

New exhibits here are of revolutionary times. The first, WW1 America, details the transformation of the country during this tumultuous period in the early 1900s. The next, Live Wires: The Cable TV Revolution, features our region’s roles in the development and rise of broadcast television. Seattle

Pacific Science Center

The most recent installment of the Science Center’s Portal to Current Research is Memory: Fragrant Flashbacks. This interactive exhibit allows visitors to explore their own sense of smell and create new scents, while learning about the significance of how our brains process smells. Seattle

Tacoma Art Museum

Haunting images of the Columbia River and Oregon landscape are on display at the Sun, Shadows, Stone: The Photography of Terry Toedtemeier exhibit. This installment of the Northwest Perspective Series documents local areas shaped by natural disasters and human influence. Tacoma

Bellevue Arts Museum

This museum has two new exhibits opening Nov. 9: BAM! Glasstastic and Clyde Petersen: Merch & Destroy. The first highlights emerging glassworkers in the Northwest, and the second is an experiential exhibit of what it feels like to be on tour with a punk rock band. Bellevue 

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