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MOHAI Boys on Boat

Checking out the real boys on the UW rowing team that inspired the book and film 'The Boys on the Boat.' Photo by JiaYing Grygiel

Review: ‘Boys in the Boat’ at MOHAI

Plus Native knowledge and science exhibit

Everybody’s talking about the new “Boys in the Boat” movie, which opens in Seattle-area theaters on Christmas Eve.

The movie (directed by my other husband, George Clooney) tells the true story of the University of Washington’s rowing team winning the gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The UW team came in as the underdogs, beat the favored German team and embarrassed Adolf Hitler. Go Huskies!

Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry got in on the hype with a special exhibit showcasing memorabilia from that Husky triumph in Nazi Germany.

While you’re at MOHAI, don’t miss the very family-friendly “Roots of Wisdom” exhibit. It uses games to teach kids about restoring ecosystems with traditional Native knowledge and science.

MOHAI Boys on Boat

Rowing shell built by George and Stan Pocock in 1956. Photo by JiaYing Grygiel

‘Boys in the Boat’

The “Boys in the Boat” exhibit is mostly three glass cases on the second floor of MOHAI. The UW team came up from behind to win the gold, with a coxswain who was Jewish. You can’t help getting the chills looking at this stuff.

There’s Don Hume’s Olympic gold medal, next to a swastika-emblazoned German Olympic rowing shirt. Bob Moch’s Olympic blazer, megaphone and gold medal. Joe Rantz’s German-made American flag.

Look over the railing: hanging directly over the front desk in the lobby is a rowing shell built by George and Stan Pocock in 1956. It’s nearly identical to the one that won the 1936 Olympics.

Don’t get me wrong, the rowing exhibit is all very good and interesting for adults, but it’s mostly things behind glass and copy on walls. My kids complained that I was taking too long. Hey guys, historical significance?

MOHAI Boys on boat

Activity replicating a traditional woven design. Photo by JiaYing Grygiel

Native knowledge, shared science

Down the hallway is “Roots of Wisdom,” a special exhibit about the cultural heritage and scientific contributions of Native communities.

I came in with admittedly low expectations. This exhibit wasn’t based on a New York Times best-selling book nor a major motion picture directed by George Clooney. Well, the joke’s on me because the “Roots of Wisdom” exhibit was far more engaging than “Boys in the Boat.”

My kids are all about games. I’m all about games with a sneaky educational component. We both found what we were looking for.

When you enter the exhibit, you learn about food with Native origins. Next time you chew gum, drink hot chocolate, or eat a bowl of popcorn, think about the fact that all these yummy things come from Native discoveries and innovations.

Interactive game restoring a traditional Hawaiian fish pond. Photo by JiaYing Grygiel

The rest of the show is super interactive. I tried my hand at weaving, copying the “Chief’s Daughter” pattern shown on a board. It’s way harder than it looks, giving you a new level of appreciation for the intricately woven basket in the display case.

My son’s favorite was a video game where you restore a traditional Hawaiian ocean shore pond. Your task is to remove invasive seaweed, fish and mangrove trees. In another video game, you can collect ripe berries and catch salmon in a fishing net.

Not everything is a screen. You can build a healthy stream using blocks, earning points when you plant native trees, add fish and build a fish ladder for the dam. You can pick a lamprey stuffy and place it on a sensor to find where it came from. (A lamprey is an eel-looking fish that is older than dinosaurs!) Or plant crops in a traditional Hawaiian ahupua‘a, a land section extending from the mountain to the ocean.

“Roots of Wisdom” was produced by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. MOHAI’s additions were developed with the Duwamish Tribe, the Snoqualmie Tribe, the Suquamish Tribe and the Tulalip Tribes.

As my 8-year-old said, “This one is really fun!”

The bottom line:

Come to MOHAI for “Boys in the Boat.” Stay for “Roots of Wisdom.”

If you go

The Museum of History and Industry is located 860 Terry Avenue North, Seattle.

“Experience Pulling Together: A Brief History of Rowing in Seattle” runs through June 2.

“Roots of Wisdom: Native knowledge. Shared Science.” runs through March 3.

Hours: Open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day. Closing at 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Admission: Adults $22, seniors (65+) $18, students and military $17. Youth 14 and under are free with a chaperone. Free admission to core exhibits on First Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Read more:

Mother-daughter review: Calder at Seattle Art Museum

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About the Author

JiaYing Grygiel

JiaYing Grygiel is a photographer and writer in Seattle. Find her on Instagram @photoj.seattle and at