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College of Arts and Sciences History

The fabric of Washington

Woman’s dentalia cape.Stories, photos, paintings, and belongings like baskets and tools tell the rich history of Plateau tribes of the inland Pacific Northwest, a history now shared online.

The Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal, a gateway to those cultural materials, is maintained by Washington State University’s Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation (CDSC) in partnership with WSU’s Native American Programs.

The materials have been chosen and curated by » More …

Northwest Indians used tobacco long before European contact

David Gang, left, and Shannon Tushingham holding ancient tobacco pipes WSU researchers have determined that Nez Perce Indians grew and smoked tobacco at least 1,200 years ago, long before the arrival of traders and settlers from the eastern United States. Their finding upends a long-held view that indigenous people in this area of the interior Pacific Northwest smoked only kinnikinnick or bearberry before traders brought tobacco starting around 1790.

Shannon Tushingham, a WSU assistant professor and director of its Museum of Anthropology, made the discovery after teaming up with David Gang, a professor in the Institute of Biological Chemistry, to analyze pipes and » More …

Researcher warns of possible reprise of worst known drought, famine

Engraving showing the plight of animals as well as humans in Bellary district A Washington State University researcher has completed the most thorough analysis yet of The Great Drought — the most devastating known drought of the past 800 years — and how it led to the Global Famine, an unprecedented disaster that took 50 million lives. She warns that the Earth’s current warming climate could make a similar drought even worse.

Deepti Singh, an assistant professor in the School of the Environment, used tree‑ring data, rainfall records and climate reconstructions to characterize the conditions leading up to the Great Drought, a period of widespread » More …

North America’s first electron microscope

Composite image of the restored microscope and the researchers' notebookEarly in the 20th century, a five-foot-tall golden microscope on the Washington State University campus was the most powerful imaging device on the continent. Despite its scientific significance, it has been largely lost from the pages of history.

“Europe’s first electron microscope earned its inventors a Nobel prize and is on display at the Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest museum of science and technology, while nobody really knows about our instrument.” said Michael Knoblauch, biology professor and director of WSU’s Franceschi Microscopy and Imaging Center. “Something of this significance should be in the Smithsonian.” » More …

Wine industry history project earns Boeing graduate fellowship

vineyardFour years ago, on his way home to Walla Walla from school in Arizona, Taylor Hermsen was thumbing through an in-flight magazine when he was struck by an idea for his doctoral research.

“The magazine was all about wine,” Hermsen said. “Being a native of the Inland Northwest, I thought I knew a lot about my home, but the fact that many people visiting eastern Washington are doing so because of the wine industry had never really occurred to me before. I started wondering how it all got going, and the project kind of snowballed from there.” » More …