MOHAI, A Museum of Everyday Geography, Moving to South Lake Union

Scale model of MOHAI’s new South Lake Union facility, opening in November, 2012

The UW Daily recently wrote about how a favorite field trip destination for Kim England’s Geography of Cities course (Geog 277)–Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)— is moving next year from its current Montlake location to South Lake Union

Professor England says has sent her “Geography of Cities” class of 150 students to MOHAI for the past ten years because the museum tells “the people’s history and everyday geography,” combining art, technology, industry and commerce with the personal narratives of those in Seattle’s past.

MOHAI has provided the class an ideal visual history to make concepts of urban historical development come alive.

As a student in England’s class last year, Junior Tiffany Oh visited MOHAI for the very first time. Before her visit, Oh said that she was somewhat unfamiliar with the museum.

Yet on that visit she particularly remembers being wowed by the “Boomtown” exhibit, a town of buildings displaying facets of Seattle’s history beginning from the end of the 19th century. She also retained some interesting tidbits about Seattle’s history, like learning the names of the first African American and Chinese American who lived in Seattle.

There are a lot of things in Seattle’s past that I didn’t know about before,” she said. “It’s an important history museum, stuff you don’t get to see at [places like] the Pacific Science Center and the EMP.”

Experiences like Oh’s are what England hopes for when she assigns her students field assignments for the course, like visiting MOHAI.

I want them to come away thinking that the city is not something that is neutral in terms of a built environment,” England said. “Most of the time, there are reasons why some things in the city look the way they do, why some buildings look the way they do. By having them go do this,  I want to give them a sense of how it looked previously. I’m trying to give them different ways of thinking about a city.”


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