From the Archives & Special Collections: Abby Williams Hill

The Archives & Special Collections is home to over 70 manuscript collections, which are collections of personal or family papers. These collections contain materials that relate to the people, history, economy, and politics of the Pacific Northwest region and the experiences of marginalized and underrepresented peoples. One of our largest manuscript collections is the Abby Williams Hill collection, which features the correspondence, journals, photographs, ephemera, and other materials belonging to this early Tacoma artist.

Abby Williams Hill (1861-1943) was a painter and activist with an insatiable love of travel and learning. Just as her artwork provides us with a lasting vision of many of the iconic sights of the American West, her papers paint a remarkably rich picture of American life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Hill’s correspondence and journals provide a unique female perspective into significant issues that were affecting the nation as a whole during that time, including the westward movement, African American and Native American rights, early childhood education, and the preservation of federal lands. In addition to Hill’s personal papers, Puget Sound is also home to over 150 pieces of Hill’s artwork, including paintings, ink drawings, and sketches. You can see many of these on display on the first floor of the library.

The Archives & Special Collections recently received a Washington Digital Heritage grant to digitize and transcribe nine of Hill’s journals. We anticipate those being available online in fall 2020. In the meantime, browse our digital collections of Hill’s artwork and family photographs, or drop in to the archives during our open hours and browse the collection!

The Archives & Special Collections has drop-in hours on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM or is open by appointment.

By Laura Edgar, Assistant Archivist

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