Taking a Look at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

One of the most popular natural history museums in the United States and even around the world is the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. It was established in1899 as the Washington State Museum and it traces its origin to the high school naturalist club formed in 1879. The museum, which has over 16 million artifacts and the world’slargest collection of spread bird wings,is the oldest history museum west of the Mississippi River.

The history of the museum, as has been pointed out in the first paragraph, can be traced back to the high school naturalist club in the 19thcentury. The groupwas formed in 1879 by students when thecity founder, Arthur Denny, held a meeting and adopted a constitution and bylaws and the name “Young Natural Society” in the year 1880. The founding members worked on getting to the university and also made efforts which led to the membership of the naturalists to include university students.

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Johnson Orson Bug, who was working at the University of Washington as a biology instructor, got involved with the young naturalists, and his collection of 20,000 animal specimens gave the club the largest natural history collection in the Pacific Northwest.  The Young Naturalists continued to increase under Johnson’s direction, and their specimens and artifacts were continuously expended and stored in a backroom of Denny’s home. In 1886, the club solicited for donations and built a permanent structure to house the growing collection of artifacts, which were regularly borrowed by the university faculty to assist in instruction.

Upon the return of Edmond Meany as a history teacher in the university, the revitalization of the club he helped to form took place and their specimen collection increased to over 60,000 specimens.

How the Naturalists Became TheWashington State Museum

The Young Naturalist collection was moved to the university’s Denny Hall upon the relocation of the University of Washington from downtown Seattle to its present location, while the remainder of the articles remained in the young clubhouse in downtown Seattle. The Washington State Legislature in the year 1899 designated a portion ofDenny Hall that was used to house the collection as the Washington State Museum, and the Young Naturalists voted in 1904 to denote the rest of the collection to the Washington State Museum.


Some Exhibit in the Burke Museum

There are long-term exhibits in the museum. These long-term display exhibits include The Life and Times of Washington State, The Pacific Voices, and The Treasure of the Burke. The Life and Times of Washington State is an exhibit on the 545-million-year evolution of the Northwest region, and it features fossils such as anAllosaurus skeleton and a giant ground sloth fossil.

The Burke Museum also hosts temporary exhibits throughout the year. Some of these exhibits are organized by other institutions, but the original exhibits are curated by the Burke staff.

The administration of the museum is overseen by the University of Washington College of Arts and Sciences, and the Universityof Washington Board of Regents serves as the museum’s governing body.

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