Burke Museum: Not Jurassic Park, but Close Enough


Giant sloth fossils from the ice age

This Wednesday, we, the group of SCA interns, made our way to the Burke Museum. Located in the bustling University district, the Burke Museum is a treat to visit. As we entered the museum we were greeted by our tour guide, Michael. Michael is post undergrad and a volunteer in the museums docent program. Michael, the former zoology major, told us that he never considered education as a life path until he became a volunteer at the Burke Museum. Though it was Michael’s first guided tour, he did an excellent job keeping us involved by asking us questions about what we thought certain artifacts were.

Scientist in the museum sorting krill and fish eggs.

After our tour of the museum (thanks again Michael!), we sat down with Cassandra the docent program manager. Cassandra is a University of Washington alumna and former fisheries major. She got her start at the Burke Museum creating various programs, many about salmon. After working for a few other museums, she recently returned to the Burke to train, recruit and retain all docent volunteers. She mentioned that there weren’t many programs for high school and middle school aged students, but that is something that the new Burke Museum hopes to experiment with in the future. However, there were some programs she was able to tell us about.In 2017, the Burke Museum will be moving into a new building. Because of this change of location, the museum has begun to experiment. The Burke wants to change some of the ways the artifacts are displayed. In many museums, including the Burke, only 2% of the museums’collections are actually displayed to the public. The Burke Museum has decided that their exhibits should show more of the artifacts, therefore they have designed a new way of displaying the artifacts so that more are shown. Cassandra, the Burke’s Docent Programs Manager, phrased this experimental display wonderfully. She stated that “In a digital world where everyone is on their cellphone, people are starved for real things.” If you find yourself at the Burke Museum in the future, you will indeed get to experience these real things, in their new exhibits located right by the front door. The older exhibits are also very cool. When walking through the museum look forward to seeing the only real dinosaur bones displayed for the public in Seattle, various interactive walls to post your questions and opinions on, and various researchers working on their projects for the public to see and inquire about. Fun fact: apparently during the ice age, giant sloths roamed North America and you can see their bones at the Burke Museum! We all, honestly, had a blast wandering through the various exhibits. Cassandra mentioned that the museum’s strength was objects and after spending hours exploring numerous artifacts, it is clear that is true.


  • Many of the Burke Museum hires are for UW students. If you are a UW student, look into becoming a docent volunteer or work to create programs for the Burke. Cassandra mentioned that her UW student employees, “can do anything and they do everything.”
  • INTERNSHIP!-every year Cassandra hires at least one intern to help her at the museum. It is an unpaid position, but would look great on a resume. To acquire this position, the high school candidate must be driven and independent. If you want this position you must contact Cassandra yourself, don’t let your parents do it for you.
  • Summer camps – there aren’t too many summer camps for high school students, but middle school students can rejoice. One camp all of us interns were interested in was a Girls in Science summer camp for middle school girls. It looks incredibly fun.
  • Free First Thursday – the Burke participates in the free first Thursday program like many other museums in Seattle. The first Thursday of every month is free. On this day, the Burke normally does something more exciting, such as allowing guest to touch actual dinosaur bones. These days are often more hands-on.
  • Family Days – These days are super cool for all age groups. On these themed days there will be activities throughout the exhibits. On September 21st, there is a Bug Blast day were not everything is dead…Also on October 18ththere is a Birds at the Burke day where museum goers will get to see how the birds on display are prepared. Fabulous quote from Cassandra about this day, “Birds don’t have a lot of guts so it’s not too gross.” This day certainly sounds fascinating to me.

After museum fun: the University District, while mildly questionable during the evening, can still be a fabulous lunch spot. After wandering around the Burke Museum, there are plenty of delicious places to eat. Our intern group went for Pho at Than Brother’s Pho. The pho was amazing and they give you free cream puff treats! (Pro tip from Claire: I actually worked in the U district a couple of years ago and one of my favorite things to do was to try out new food places at lunch. The variety of different kinds of food is spectacular. Every food genre from sandwiches to Ethiopian is represented. Go forth and eat!)To conclude, the Burke Museum is a lot of fun to visit and their new era of experimentation will be particularly fascinating to keep an eye out for. I asked Cassandra if she wanted our readers to know anything special about the Burke. She said that the museum was special because it was created by a group of students (many were sons of the founders of Seattle,) The museum was not just created by a boring old guy, it was created by the youth of Seattle.


From Klondike – Bus #s 71, 72, 73, 74
From Ballard – Bus # 44
From Columbia City – Light Rail to Bus #s 71, 72, 73, 74 OR Bus #7 to Bus #48
From West Seattle – C Line to Bus #s 71, 72, 73, 74


$1.25-$2.50 (bus), $10 admission or $7.50 for students (with ID) OR free every first Thursday!

~ Claire, SCA Intern

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