This site is arranged chronologically around three distinct periods of history in the Pacific Northwest. It begins with the period of Exploration & Discovery (covering the time span of 1770 to the 1840s), which is the first period from which Special Collections holds substantial arts-related materials.  It is followed by Overland Expeditions and Early Pioneers, and concludes with the Emerging 20th Century, when visual arts became an established part of this region's culture. Each period of history is introduced with a brief overview essay. Helpful reference books are listed, as are Library of Congress Subject headings which may guide you in your search.
Individual entries by explorer or artist are located under the period headings. The entries are described in a format that varies a little: Introduction, Original Publication, Biography of artist(s), and Holdings.
Criteria for Inclusion
Several criteria were used to decide which materials to feature in this site. The questions were: Is it unique or rare? Does the quality or quantity of the material make it important in Pacific Northwest visual culture? Is the content historically significant? And finally, is it something that patrons frequently request to see?
Visual Arts, for the purpose of this web site, are defined as paintings, sculpture, drawings, crafts, and prints (like those from engravings and lithographs). The bulk of the visual arts materials featured on this site are prints made from engraved plates or from wood cuts because these are the form most likely to be included in Special Collections's pre-twentieth century holdings.
Because of the bulk of zoological and botanical prints relating to the Pacific Northwest (among the numerous: Chamisso, naturalist aboard Kotzebue’s voyage; scientists that accompanied the American Expedition or the Railroad Surveys; J.R. Prevost, naturalist, on La Pérouse’s expedition), these have necessarily, though undeservedly, been excluded from discussion on this site.
The Pacific Northwest was defined by past University Librarian Charles W. Smith as “that geographical area lying north of California and west of the Rocky mountains, including the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, together with British Columbia, Alaska and the Yukon.”
Originally, collections were made representing this vast terrain, but Special Collections now has a particular focus on the greater Seattle and Puget Sound region. This becomes evident at the turn of the 20th Century, when the visual culture materials narrow to local artists, patrons, arts organizations, and galleries.
Visual Images on this Web Site
Images incorporated into this web site originate from, and are linked to, Special Collections’ Digital Collections. If you click on an image, you will be taken to the Digital Collections website, where you can view the specific information (metadata) relating to the image and find instructions on how to obtain reproductions.
Digital Collections is a searchable database that includes, for example, photographs or drawings of artists, and some reproductions of art. This database is continually augmented and is an essential visual resource.
 The earliest artistic heritage of this region comes from Native Americans. Special Collections holds some primary documents and printed materials pertaining to Pacific Northwest Native American artists and scholars who have studied that field. Large holdings of pre- and post-contact visual sources can be found elsewhere: at the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus, in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum, in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and in British Columbia, Canada, at the B.C. Archives, Royal B.C. Museum and the Museum of Anthropology at the University of B.C.