The New Burke

The New Burke

Update: 2019-08-25


Burke Museum Podcast Transcript

StoriesHere Interview July 15, 2019

Julie Stein, Burke Museum and Wayne Parker, StoriesHere

Wayne: Greetings. This is Wayne Parker letting you know that something remarkable is happening on the north end of the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle.  A new museum is about to open and it is unlike any other.  A new 90 million dollar building is completely replacing the old Museum, and not just a new building but a new way for people to experience a museum.

Here's Dr. Julie Stein, Executive Director of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture to tell us about the new Museum and how this came about.  And then after this podcast find out more at 

Julie: Well, the New Burke is I believe something different from most museums if not all museums, and that we truly, truly tried to turn this museum inside out.

There's a story I tell about the Old Burke.  The Old Burke was right adjacent to us and it was a fairly traditional museum that had exhibits about dinosaurs and people of the Pacific.  There were cases with objects and labels and you could read a little bit on the label about whatever it was the Curator was trying to tell you.

But when you were done looking at those exhibits you would leave.  Maybe you'd buy something at the shop or the cafe, but you would leave and not understand that there were many other things at the Burke behind the walls that you couldn't see. And I used to give people tours of the Burke. And I would take them downstairs to the basement and there were, down there, cases and cases of objects in archaeology and paleontology, open shelving with big mammoth bones and dinosaur bones and eggs of dinosaurs.  And while you were walking along from archaeological cases you’d stop and see a room full of students and employees, staff, undergrads and graduates.

They’d be working on a problem that somebody was trying to solve by looking at an object. And you’d continue walking down the hall and you go past offices with people who worked in our finance department or communications. And then by that time people's mouths were hanging open and they'd say, “I had no idea that you had people in here, that they had jobs, that they were working on collections, that you had collections, that there were this many objects”.

And then we would go upstairs to the Culture section and they'd see 9,000 baskets and masks and all kinds of beaded clothing and footwear from all over the Pacific.  And then birds and then mammals.  

And you're getting my point here.  By the end of a tour, which usually lasted an hour, sometimes I couldn't get people out of there for an hour and a half!

They were just overwhelmed with all the information and all of the interesting, difficult issues that people were using the collections to try to address. And it was so clear to me after doing this for 10 years that the new museum had to give that experience to every single visitor. 


Wayne: That's Julie Stein, Executive Director of the Burke Museum, talking about a new approach to the museum experience.

Her comments really resonate with me since that kind of guided tour experience that she described was our motivation for launching this StoriesHere Podcast.

And imagine moving millions of items from one building to another!  Let's hear that story now. 

Julie: It's true. We took possession of the New Burke Museum, which is a new building adjacent to the old Burke Museum.

We took possession of it in May of 2018, and we couldn't move anything in before the fire department gave us permission. We started moving like crazy and the last object came over on the last day of February in 2019, so that I think is just roughly about nine months.








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The New Burke

The New Burke

Wayne Parker