Our History


Northwest Museum — Through the Years


Officially incorporated on June 5, 1916 as the Spokane Historical Society, the Museum “was started with a meager display of a few curios in a single six foot show case … on the fifth floor of … City Hall.” The Museum moved to the fifth floor of the Crescent Department Store in 1917 and in 1918 changed its name to the Eastern Washington State Historical Society. Initially focused on “historical purposes,” the Museum’s focus soon expanded to include art.


The gift of the A.B. Campbell home from Mrs. W.W. Powell in 1925 provided a permanent home for the Museum in Browne’s Addition. In 1926, the Museum secured recognition and funding from the State of Washington to “collect books, maps, charts, papers and materials illustrative of the history of Washington.” Exhibits featured “modern” art, historic artifacts, natural history specimens, and general curiosities.


In 1960, the W.H. Cowles family presented the Cheney Cowles Museum building, adjacent to the Campbell House, as a memorial to Major Cheney Cowles. The Museum changed its name to the Cheney Cowles Memorial Museum and began restoring the Campbell House to its “Age of Elegance.” The Museum celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1966 and obtained accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 1972.


A one million dollar addition to the Cheney Cowles Museum building opened in May 1984, featuring expanded programming and work spaces, as well as climate-controlled collection storage. Extensive formal restoration of the Campbell House began the same year. As the Museum celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 1991, it expanded to include the extensive collections of the Museum of Native American Cultures (MONAC). In 1998 the Museum celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Campbell House.


Construction of a “new Museum for a new millennium” began in 1999, featuring expanded exhibition, programming, and collection storage spaces. The new facility opened on December 5, 2001 as the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture. The Museum became a Smithsonian Institute Affiliate in 2001 and today showcases the best of regional history and art.

2016 - The 100th Birthday of the Eastern Washington State Historical Society and the beginning our next 100 years of success!


The Museum's purpose is to inspire and foster understanding of the history, cultures, communities, commerce, and art of the Inland Northwest.

Annual Report

2011-2012 View Online
2012-2013 View Online
2013-2014 View Online
2014-2015 View Online
2015-2016 View Online

Vision Statement

The Eastern Washington State Historical Society will be the preeminent cultural showplace in the Pacific Northwest for the arts, history, and lifelong learning.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Museum is to actively engage all people in the appreciation of arts and culture through collections stewardship, exhibits, and programs that educate and entertain.

Eastern Washington State Historical Society is an equal opportunity employer committed to providing equal opportunity in education, employment, membership and contracts without regard to race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, age, marital status, the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, use of a trained guide dog or service animal by a person with a disability, and/or status as a veteran. The museum is committed to creating and maintaining environments in which students, staff and visitors can work, learn, research and recreate free from all forms of prohibited discrimination and discriminatory harassment. If you have experienced an act of discrimination or harassment, please contact the museum via phone at (509) 456-3931, via e-mail at john.moredo-burich@northwestmuseum.org or file a complaint online at www.northwestmuseum.org.