Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

While visiting Seattle, I did manage to visit one museum that wasn’t  part of the Seattle CityPass. My special fondness for natural history museums led me to scout out…

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, located in Seattle, Washington


The Burke Museum is located within the University of Washington, therefore it is a relatively easy museum to find and travel to. The museum is open from 10am-5pm daily, and regular admission is $10. My friend and I took the bus there, and had to walk a bit to find the museum, nevertheless, we made it without difficulty (most likely because my friend attended UW, so said friend knew where it was to begin with.) There are several bus stops along the university campus area, thus it would be wise to know which stop to get off, so that you won’t have to walk extra (Again, I’m useless here because I had my wonderful friend who just took me to all the places I wanted to go).

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After paying for admission, we ventured to the closest gallery, which turned out well because we didn’t have to double back at all. The first exhibit visited was the special exhibit that was opened from April to October 2014 (so it’s now closed) entitled, “Imagine That. Surprising Stories and Amusing Objects from the Burke Museum”. The exhibit showcased a part of the museum’s collection that is not regularly on display, and explained how collections shows us new things. To me, this exhibit felt like a mish mosh of artifacts that the museum has, but don’t have enough of the related artifacts to make an exhibit out of. Nevertheless, I like the exhibit. I like that they told me what else is in the Burke collection besides the objects in the permanent galleries. It was like a behind the scenes experience.

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The next gallery was “Life and Times of Washington State”, which shows you everything, from plants, to rocks and minerals, to fossils,  related to Washington state. In a lot of the natural history museums that I’ve been to in the past, they tend to have galleries devoted to a specific theme, for example, fossils; the exhibit would focus solely on fossils found throughout the world. I like that this exhibit  focused on things found in the specific state, as it allows the visitors to understand the natural history of the particular area. Also, the geography-centered gallery gives more details about the certain things that maybe glazed over in theme-centered galleries. For examples, volcanoes; each gallery may tell you about volcanoes, what causes them and why they exist, but in the geography-centered gallery, one gets little details, such as what can be done in case a volcano did erupt.

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The last gallery in the museum, “Pacific Voices” encompassed the entirety of the first floor. (It was kind of stuffy and hot when I visited in May, they had fans on, but no AC, maybe it was too early for AC or it didn’t work on the first floor.) I’ve never found myself to be super interested in cultures, but I thought the Pacific Voices exhibit was really amazing. It is my favorite of the three galleries. I feel that a tremendous amount of effort was placed into this gallery; they had cultural displays, clothing, furniture, there were cards teaching words of some of the cultures,and there were also had some hands on activities. Looking back now, I think I was so amazed because I was able to take a glimpse into so many various cultures just by walking around one floor. There is a lot to look at, but it didn’t feel crowded, all the display spaces were well spaced out.


According to the museum, the Erna Gunther Ethnobotanical Garden, which is located outside the main entrance, is also part of the exhibits. The garden contained a variety of plants, and a few totem pole and monument replicas. I don’t know much about plants, I can’t tell one leaf from another, unless the shapes are different, so I spent almost no time looking at the garden. The replica totem poles and monuments were a nice touch, they added some spice and color to the otherwise green garden.

We spent about a total of an hour and a half wondering around the two floors and garden area of the Burke museum. The time spent seems about right as the museum is kind of small compared to other natural history museums, however one can always spend more time if they were to examine everything in detail. The price of admission seems a bit steep for a museum of its size, but then again, the money appears to be well spent, however I think if the admission was in the single digits, say $9, it would be just right. Natural history museums tend to be really popular and crowded, but not the Burke museum for reasons unknown to me. It might be cause we visited on a weekday, its location, or that its just unpopular, but whatever the reasons maybe, ignore them. The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is a treasure trove of information that is just waiting to fascinate you! (if you give it the chance)


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