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Northwest Room Blog

Tides of Time: Cysewski's Ferry Boat Photographs

In the 1970s, photographer Stephen Cysewski captured moments of humor, oddity, and human interaction on Washington State ferries.

Arthur French: Tacoma Photographer in Focus

Arthur French, a photographer in Tacoma during the turn of the last century, left a unique visual record. Learn more about his work.

Meet Heather and learn more about the NHPRC grant.

Meet Heather, who is cataloging, digitizing, and enhancing access to the Tacoma News Tribune Photograph Collection.

Introducing the NEW Tacoma-Pierce County Buildings Index

Learn about the new and revamped version of the Northwest Room's beloved regional home and building research database!

Frequently Asked Questions

Northwest Room FAQs

  • Email:

    Phone: (253) 280-2814

    Mailing Address: Northwest Room - Tacoma Public Library, 1102 Tacoma Ave S., Tacoma, WA 98402

    The Northwest Room is currently open by appointment only.  

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  • Northwest ORCA, opens a new window (Online Records and Collections Access) is a searchable database providing access to descriptions of records and manuscripts along with digitized photographs and documents. 

    The Image Archive, opens a new window provides access to over 30,000 digitized images from the Northwest Room’s collections. 

    The Tacoma-Pierce County Buildings Index, opens a new window contains information on Tacoma and Pierce County buildings found in Tacoma papers and in over 200 books on local history and architecture. Many of the sources cited in the index are available to view in the Northwest Room. 

    The Tacoma-Pierce County Obituary Index, opens a new window contains thousands of records of obituaries published in local Tacoma newspapers. 

    The Library Catalog, opens a new window includes local history books and periodicals held by the Northwest Room or available through other TPL library branches. 

    Other collection databases are also available through TPL Online Digital Collections, opens a new window. 

  • Procedures for On Site Research 

    Northwest Room users may bring with them a laptop or similar device, cell phone, handheld camera, pencils (no pens), paper, and a USB thumb drive for scans. Food and beverages are not allowed at any time. 

    The Northwest Room’s records and manuscript holdings are non-circulating and stored in closed stacks. Northwest Room staff will retrieve and return materials requested by researchers. Advanced notice is recommended since we may be unable to retrieve these materials on demand. 

    The Northwest Room’s collections are rare and often irreplaceable. Materials should be handled with extreme care. 

    All materials must be kept in the order in which they are found. For certain materials, it may be necessary to wear gloves provided by Northwest Room staff. 

    Patrons may use handheld cameras to photograph items for personal reference.

    Advisory Statement on Offensive Content 

    Materials held by the Northwest Room may include content that is inconsistent with the mission and values of Tacoma Public Library. When utilizing these materials, including content available digitally, you may encounter offensive, oppressive, and/or outdated references and representations. This content is made available for transparency, accountability, and education.  

  • For onsite researchers 

    Patrons may use a handheld non-flash camera to photograph items in our collection for personal research use. No personal scanners are permitted. If the condition of the item permits, patrons may scan or photocopy material. Materials that are fragile or may be easily damaged may not be scanned by patrons. Patrons may not scan or photocopy photographs from our collection. High resolution digital reproductions of photographs may be purchased for $10.00 per image.  

    If you plan to scan material onsite, please bring a USB thumb drive to transfer your files. Tacoma Public Library cardholders are given a weekly printing allowance. Non-cardholders may purchase photocopies for .20 cents per page (cash or card is accepted).  

    Printing from microform readers is available for .20 cents per page (cash only). The printing allowance for cardholders does not include microform printing.  

    For remote researchers 

    If the physical condition of the original permits, digitization services for items not under special restrictions are available to patrons for a fee. Copies are for the purpose of private study under Fair Use and/or Library/Archives provisions of copyright law.  

    If a patron is unable to visit in person or if the necessary material is unable to be safely scanned or photocopied, Northwest Room staff can provide scans of textual documents of up to 100 pages for 25 cents per page. Reproduction requests totaling over 100 pages will be considered on a case-by-case basis and depend on staff availability.  

    High resolution digital reproductions of photographs may be purchased for $10.00 per image.  

    To initiate an image digitization order, complete the Image Order Form, opens a new window:


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  • The Northwest Room works with donors to acquire unique materials related to Tacoma and the South Sound region. We are unable to accept all materials offered to us. Potential donors must contact the Northwest Room in advance about their donation.  

    More information is available in our Northwest Room Donation Guide, opens a new window. 

  • It is the user’s responsibility to obtain any necessary permission from the holder(s) of copyright for the publication or distribution of material held by the Northwest Room. United States copyright law provides protection for unpublished materials as well as for published works. 

    Publishing/Distributing Material Under Copyright 

    The Northwest Room does not hold the copyright to all materials in our holdings. We cannot grant permission for the publication of materials for which we do not explicitly control the copyright. Permission may be granted only by the copyright holder(s). It is the researcher’s responsibility to identify the copyright holder(s) to obtain any necessary permission that is required under United States copyright law. Researchers may also consider the four factors of Fair Use described in Section 107 of the US Copyright Act. More information about Fair Use is available from the US Copyright Office, opens a new window

    Publishing/Distributing Material in the Public Domain 

    Some material held by the Northwest Room is in the public domain (the statutory term of copyright has expired or is otherwise ineligible for copyright protection). More information on using materials in the Public Domain is available from the Copyright Alliance, opens a new window

    Citing Material from the Northwest Room

    When using materials from the Northwest Room, a full citation should be included which identifies the Northwest Room at Tacoma Public Library as the repository. Here are some examples of proper citations of different types of material:

    1. A digitized image citation should include the image identifier, the name of the collection, and the name of the repository: RSS-127, Richards Studio Photograps (Collection 2.1.1), Northwest Room at Tacoma Public Library
    2. A citation of a document should include descriptive information about the item, the date, the name of the collection, and the name of the repository: Letter from T. Handforth to his mother from Brooklyn, NY, January 12, 1931, Thomas Handforth Papers (Collection 3.5.3), Northwest Room at Tacoma Public Library. 
  • The Northwest Room partners with educators to develop instructional opportunities that enhance the student learning experience through the investigation of primary source material. We believe that our collections exist to be used for teaching and learning and seek to facilitate productive and transformative encounters between students and archival materials. These encounters are designed around the following learning outcomes: 

    By engaging with primary sources, learners begin to: 

    • Think critically about how silences, gaps, biases, and power impact the historical record and the research process. 
    • Connect historical events to the present and understand their role in the history of the local community and our collective memory. 
    • Examine and synthesize different types of information to construct, support, or dispute an argument. 
    • Articulate what primary sources might support a research project and identify the possible origin and location of those sources. 

    Instructional support can be provided for all grade levels. If you are interested in discussing opportunities for your students, please complete the Instructional Request Form, opens a new window and a member of our team will follow up with you.

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