Exhibit Award – Service Ink: Veterans’ Tattoos and Their Stories

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Curator Hilary Pittenger accepts the Exhibit Award on behalf of the White River Valley Museum

Curator Hilary Pittenger accepts the Exhibit Award on behalf of the White River Valley Museum

The White River Valley Museum was awarded with AKCHO’s 2016 Exhibit Award for its extraordinary exhibit that focused on service-related tattoos. “Service Ink” honored area veterans by providing a setting for appreciation and discussion, and a format to celebrate the vigor and storytelling inherent in the art of tattooing.

 The Museum put out a call for submissions of tattoos and their stories from active or veteran members of the military, their friends and families. This resulted in 40 entries, which were developed into striking portraits of 40 individuals and their tattoos with short essays about the meaning of the tattoos. These panels created a beautiful and thought-provoking display. 

Some of the tattoos honored a loved one killed in service. Some were a diary of lives spent in service. Some documented issues of violence in the service or sexual harassment. All told powerful stories, especially considering the life-long commitment that wearing a tattoo implies. All of the people participating in the exhibit lived in Washington state, and many of them were from South King County. 

According to Patricia Cosgrove, the Executive Director of the White River Valley Museum, “The whole idea was to give people a voice about their military experience, and give the rest of us a look into their lives, which are so different – and to use the art of tattoo as a device for that storytelling.”  

A well-attended Open House was held to view the exhibit before the 50th Anniversary of the Auburn Veterans Day Parade on November 7, 2015. White River Valley Museum produces several temporary exhibits each year – all are unique, some look outside the history box, and all speak to different members of the Museum’s diverse South King County population.  

This exhibit was organized with the assistance of the Green River Community College Office of Veterans Affairs, the Auburn VFW Post 1471, the American Legion, and the City of Auburn’s Veterans and Human Services Division.


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AKCHO was established in 1977 to encourage cooperation among historical organizations; promote and encourage the study and preservation of the history and heritage of King County through member organizations, individual members, and the community they serve; and support such preservation efforts through public awareness and understanding of legislative issues.

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More than 150 individuals and organizations support heritage work and historic preservation in King County, thanks to their membership in AKCHO. Please join us!


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AKCHO was established to encourage cooperation among historical organizations and to promote and encourage the study and preservation of the history and heritage of King County through member organizations, individual members, and the community they serve, and to support such preservation efforts through public awareness and understanding of legislative issues.

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