Tucked into the trees on the northwest corner of the University of Washington campus, the Burke Museum has housed fascinating natural, cultural, and historical artefacts and exhibits for well over a hundred years. Founded in 1895 by the Young Naturalist Society, the Burke Museum’s primary purpose is to provide a place for the care and display of the Society’s natural history artifacts. Today, treasured timepieces of local history hang from the ceiling, greet you around hidden corners, shout in native tongues for your attention, and capture your imagination.
Residing on the campus of a world-renowned research university, the Burke Museum is first and foremost an educational institution. Far from being a “look but don’t touch” museum, the Burke guides its visitors to an understanding and appreciation of the connections between our natural and cultural environments. Near the front entrance of the museum is the Erna Gunther Ethnobotanical garden, a living history of Native American tradition. Wander through the garden to learn about the medicinal uses of native plants, some of which still grow wild around Puget Sound. Step inside to peruse the permanent exhibit, The Life and Times of Washington State, which connects the native peoples who used these plants to their natural and cultural histories that so influenced the development of this beautiful region. The exhibit is set into a curved walkway that leads visitors through the 545 million years of Washington State history, from Allosaurus fossils and exploding volcanoes to the beginning of human existence on Puget Sound. Another permanent exhibit, Pacific Voices, brings the 17 cultures of the Pacific Rim to light in a brilliant display of the influence of modernity on indigenous cultures.
The Burke’s temporary exhibits have covered subjects from tapestries and textiles to nature photography and location-specific archaeological finds. Check the website before visiting, as some of the temporary exhibits maintain limited viewing hours. Additionally, take note of the Museum Café, a classy local favorite for a quick cup of coffee, a light, freshly made lunch, and a rest in the café’s sculpture garden. The first Thursday of each month is free, and the museum is open until 8pm. Note that most museums in Seattle are free on these “First Thursdays,” so if you’re a museum buff, schedule accordingly and enjoy the benefits of this great opportunity.
- Open daily from 10am to 5pm
- General: $9.50
- Seniors: $7.50
- Students and Youth (5 & up w/ID): $6
- Metro Stop:
- #71, 72, 73 from downtown; #44 from Ballard
- Check Metro bus schedule for schedules, as this area is severely impacted by campus athletic events and buses may be re-routed
- The Burke’s parking lot is operated by the University; the entrance is on 45th Avenue NE, directly east of the 15th Avenue intersection.
- Location: The museum is located on the University of Washington campus at the corner of 17th Avenue NE and NE 45th.
- Website: www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/