You can find these odd museums in the South Sound

From the Tacoma Telephone Pioneer Museum to the Pacific Bonsai Museum, there’s no shortage of interesting exhibits in the South Sound. #k5evening

The city of Tacoma has so many museums, it has its very own Museum District! From the Glass Museum to the Washington History Museum, there are many options for history, art, and culture buffs. But the South Sound is also home to some quirky and unique museums.

Tacoma Telephone Pioneer Museum

It’s the little-known museum that’s really off the hook. Located on the second floor of the AT&T building downtown, the Tacoma Telephone Pioneer Museum is run by volunteers. Retired phone company employees like switchboard operator Carol Bartle.

“Sometimes they’d want to know the name of the garage down the street or how to cook a turkey on Thanksgiving,” Bartle said. “The operators needed to know everything and we did it!”

Shady Lady Bordello Museum

Antique dealer Holly Phelps has opened a brothel museum at Shady Lady in Centralia. It celebrates the so-called “dirty pigeons” who actually worked in the second floor rooms.

“When we share the museum, people really get interested in the history and the beauty of the furniture pieces and things like that,” Phelps said. “It doesn’t change the fact that it was a sex business, where they marketed themselves to make a living, drive the dollar to make ends meet. That’s still the dark side of it.”

LeMay Collections in Marymount

Visiting LeMay Collections is like going on a giant treasure hunt…through your most eccentric neighbor’s garage. If your neighbor owned thousands of cars.

When Harold LeMay died in 2000, his widow Nancy decided sharing the collection with the public was the best way to honor her husband.

He always said, “I don’t smoke. I do not drink. I only have one truck and that’s vehicles and cars and trucks and whatever,” Nancy said.

Pacific Bonsai Museum

At the Pacific Bonsai Museum on Federal Way, 35,000 visitors a year see horticulture and art transforming trees from around the world into miniature versions of themselves.

“A lot of people think bonsai is a type of tree, like a species, but in reality it’s an art to cultivate any tree,” said curator Aarin Packard.

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Emma James

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