The museum’s three-dimensional collection is comprised of some 100,000 objects. As at most other museums, visitors to MOHAI will see only about 2% of the museum’s total collection at any given time; the remaining 98% is held in storage for future exhibits, research and study, and preservation. MOHAI’s collection includes souvenirs from Seattle-area events, like the 1962 World’s Fair and the 1999 WTO riots, artifacts related to local businesses and industries, locally designed and invented products, recreational equipment, maritime objects, paintings by local artists, clothing and textiles dating from the early 1800s to the present day, and everyday household items from the period of Washington settlement through the World Wars and up to the present day. Objects are stored according to a classification system, based on how an object was made to be used.
MOHAI's diverse artifact collection includes smaller objects, as well as objects that are more sensitive - such as ivory carvings, firearms, and paintings. We also have a collection of baskets made by area tribes that date from as early as the mid 1800s, medical equipment, patent models, and household items including kitchen gadgets, toys, and ceramics. Most of our maritime objects are stored together, such as ship models including the USS Decatur and SS Beaver, early deep-sea diving helmets, and a Fresnel lens used in the 1880s in the Smith Island Light House.
In addition, our collection includes textiles, clothing and furniture. We have a unique collection of over-sized vehicles – such as a Model T, one of two remaining original Yesler cable cars, Al Young’s drag racing car, the first (and locally designed) fiberglass kayak, and a Chris Craft wooden speedboat. Another collection highlight are the neon signs from favorite bygone Seattle establishments – like The Bon Marché, The Dog House bar, and The Music Hall Theater.