At the end of the 19th century, the Washington State Legislative Assembly said of the museum: “it is a repository for the conservation and exhibition of documents and objects of historical value, materials illustrating the fauna, flora, anthropology, mineral wealth and natural resources of the State, and for all documents and objects whose conservation will be useful to the student in history and natural sciences”.
Today, the 16 million referenced items are kept in a new building that opened its doors on October 12.
It was designed and built to showcase the museum’s unique pieces, of course, and the willingness to share the work of researchers and employees with us is a great success.
The disciplines are presented, exposed, illustrated in a simple and fun way. You stroll between stuffed birds and skeletons of dolphins or dinosaurs. And the most amazing thing is there: large windows allow you to see the work of scientists. Before your eyes, they clean fossils, finish stuffing a squirrel or finish making a basket in the tradition of the first native Americans.
Museum employees are scattered in front of these large windows and among the visitors, they answer questions from adults and many children who watch fascinated, their noses glued to the windows!
These disciplines are sometimes mysterious and complex for the general public. This willingness to share and make us understand the complexity of the work and the interest it represents for the future is exciting.
Burke’s research programs focus on natural history and culture, everything around us: the land, water, plants, animals and people. We experience irreversible changes in nature and culture on a daily basis. Our ecosystem is fragile and is suffering irreparable damage. Understanding the implications of this change is intimidating but essential.
A bit of History:
From the teen club to the world-class museum, the history of the Burke spans over 130 years. In 1879, a group of teenagers collected specimens and objects they found. They called themselves the “Society of Young Naturalists” and organized expeditions and gave conferences. Six years later, the Society raised enough money to build a small building to house its collection, and a museum was born. Located on the original campus of the University of Washington, it was the center of natural history in the Pacific Northwest.
Over the years, the museum has become part of the university, professors have become members of the society. And in 1899, the state legislature designated the museum as the Washington State Museum.
The Burke acquired its current name in 1962, in recognition of a legacy donated by the judge Thomas Burke (1849-1925). Thomas and his wife, Caroline McGilvra Burke, shared a strong interest in Native American culture and were among the first collectors of Native art in the Northwest.