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Section title
Start here on your family
Researching your home
Red Kelly Lives @ the Library!
In the Spotlight
Start here on your family's history.
Free genealogy classes can help get you started on researching your family's history. Read more.
Researching your home's secret history!
According to U.S. census figures, nearly 50% of Tacoma’s homes were built before World War Two. So how do you discover the history of your house? Who built it? When?  Here are resources to get you started.
Red Kelly Lives @ the Library!
The Red Kelly Collection documents the career of jazz bassist, sometime politician and jazz club owner Thomas ‘Red’ Kelly, and collects and preserves materials related to his life and music. [Learn more about the collection here]
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How do I...
Order a Photograph?
Research my home's history?
Check out books from the Northwest Room?
Look at Rare Books?
Research my family's history?
Donate books and materials?
Get an answer to a question?

Tacoma past... the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad, the gateway to Mount Rainier, a bustling port and the self-proclaimed 'City of Destiny.'

Tacoma present... a city in the midst of an exciting renaissance, a regional center for trade with Pacific Rim nations, forest products and technology. Beautiful landscaped residential neighborhoods. New museums. A new downtown university. A new spirit. Tacoma, the jewel of the 'sea in the forest.'

Welcome to the online home of the Library's Northwest Room & Special Collections- a veritable treasure trove of information about the exploration, growth and development of Tacoma and the Puget Sound Region. Unique databases (created by library staff) provide easy access to a variety of usually difficult-to-find information and compelling stories about the people, places and events that shaped our region's history. What is available online represents a very small part of the Northwest Rooms resources.

Located in the downtown Main Library's original 1903 Carnegie Library, the Northwest Room is home to the Library's collection of materials on Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest, genealogy, photography, newspapers and rare books. The Northwest Room is a selective repository for the archives of the City of Tacoma, and provides public access to many local and regional planning documents and environmental impact statements.  Come visit. You won't want to leave.

 Northwest Photography Archives
The Tacoma Public Library is home to more than 1 million photographs of the Tacoma and South Sound region from 1888 to the present day (more than 40,000 images are currently available online). Learn more about the collection.
 South Sound Photo Album: Frech pictures daily

South Sound Photo Album
Do you enjoy The News Tribune's daily South Sound Photo Album? Did you know that these delightful photographs are part of the Library's vast photography collection? Explore this daily news feature by date (back to January 1, 2000), or by keyword.

 Tacoma/Pierce County Obituary Index
This database indexes more than 367,000 obituary records published in the Tacoma News Tribune/Morning News Tribune. This file is complete from 1984 to the present day. 110,000 more names (from 1930 -1983) are also included, but coverage of those years is by no means complete.
 Tacoma / Pierce County Building Index
How do you discover the history of your house… who built it, when and why? This comprehensive source indexes home construction news in Tacoma newspapers from 1883 through 1941.  The Library also has other non-electronic resources for researching your home's history.
 Washington Place NamesWashington Place Names
Ever wonder how Sequim got its name or why there is a town called Yelm? This unique resource provides the who, what, when and why about place names throughout the state.  A fascinating way to explore our state's heritage.

Genealogy Resources
Genealogy is the study of family history. Where do you start? Easy - with your generation, and a trip to the Library. Included here is information about our genealogy resources, useful web sites, and a basic booklist.

 Northwest History Resources
In addition to the Library's tremendous collection of information and resources on the history of Tacoma and the South Sound, there are other web sites that offer unique information for both the casual and the dedicated researcher.
 Ships Ships & Shipping
More than 13,000 individual index records on ships built on the Pacific Coast and ships with a connection to the Pacific Northwest. The database includes the names (and former names) of vessels, their builders, careers and dispositions.
 Murray's People: A collection of EssaysMurray's People
A selection of essays by the late Murray Morgan, noted Northwest author and historian, that offers readers a fascinating glimpse into the people, events and history of the Pacific Northwest.

 Unsettling Events

Unsettling Events
Earthquakes, riots, robberies, murders and a host of other terrifying events that created panic in the streets of communities throughout the Pacific Northwest. These true-life tales chillingly capture the dark side of our state's history.

 Magnificent Views Magnificent Views & Vistas: Mountaineers
Early climbers left a legacy of photographs, journals and maps chronicling their adventures "above the clouds" in the majestic mountains of Washington State. A handful of these early explorations (1912 - 1916) are chronicled here.
 The Red Kelly Collection
Tacoma jazz bassist Thomas ‘Red’ Kelly played in bands with the likes of Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Harry James and Buddy Rich. Kelly’s story is part of a bigger story — the history of American music in the World War II era.
Last Updated 25.03.2014
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