The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Since it was raining this weekend, Chad and I decided to finally visit The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, located on the campus of the University of Washington.

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To be honest, natural history museums usually equate to giant sleeping pills for me, which is probably why it took us a while to get to the Burke. But both Chad and I were pleasantly surprised by the exhibits and treasures the Burke showcased. Founded in 1885, the Burke Museum is Washington State’s oldest museum and houses more than 12 million artifacts and specimens.

The first exhibit we viewed was a special exhibit on the Elwha River: the people affected by the river and the history of the world’s largest dam removal project. I had never heard of this river or the dam removal project, so it was fascinating to learn the history through amazing photographs, first person interviews, and time-lapse videos of the dam removal. There was also a great “camp tent” for kids to play in and learn what it would be like to work on an environmental restoration team.

We then journeyed through the “Life and Times of Washington State,” an ongoing exhibit featuring 500 million years of geological history.

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This is the dinosaur section of the museum, which the Burke displays with great murals surrounding the million years old fossils and casts of a creatures such as a mastodon and a saber-tooth cat. The displays, along with maps of the region, really help you visualize these creatures walking the same land as us.

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Another great exhibit discusses the geological dangers of the Pac-West: namely volcanoes. Mt. Rainier is the closest stratovolcano in the region, but there are also Mt. Baker, Mt. Hood, and perhaps most infamous of these Mt. St. Helens. The exhibit details the geological forces creating and sustaining stratovolcanoes and what these mean to the people and places in the area.

Perhaps my favorite ongoing exhibit at the Burke is called “Pacific Voices,” showcasing 17 different cultures from around the Pacific: their artifacts, instruments, and art.

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This exhibit really walks you through different cultures that have shaped with Pacific area. The exhibits are quite detailed, showcasing the lifestyle, clothing and traditions of each culture. We highly recommend visiting the lower-level of the museum to see this exhibit.


We really enjoyed the Burke Museum – there is so much to see it is hard to name it all here. And the Burke rotates special exhibits every few months, so we will be sure to visit again soon.


Important Travel Notes:

Museum Hours:   Daily 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. The first Thursday of each month, admission is free and Burke stays open until 8:00 pm.


General:                                            $10.00
Seniors:                                            $8.00
Students (w/ID):                             $7.50
Youth (5 & Up):                              $7.50

FREE to Burke members, children ages 4 and under, and UW staff/faculty/students with UW ID.



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