It just happened again! The hardest attractions to write about are 3 compass places that mildly please and show promise but are, currently, tired and don’t excite. Invariably, when I decide to write about one of these I learn that it’s about to get a major facelift. burke museum.org reports that “The Burke is engaged in a multi-year transformation project that will culminate in a new museum facility.” It promises to become a flagship natural history museum that inspires. Madeline McKenzie of the Seattle Times called the current Burke eclectic and enticing. For me, the transformation project can’t happen soon enough.
The Burke Museum is at NE 45th Street on the campus of the University of Washington. It looks like it has been around, if not in its present location, for more than a century and that would be accurate. It’s the oldest public museum in the State of Washington. In fact, you’re invited to its 125th birthday party on Thursday, November 6, 2014, for games, cake, and “apples for everyone”. This is, after all, Washington.
The original local natural history museum came about in 1885 to provide a place for the Young Naturalists’ Society’s collection. Within 19 years that grew to 50,000+ specimens, and the forerunner of The Burke, Washington State Museum, came about. Its current building is named for civil leader Thomas Burke, who died in 1925. It was new in 1962 and is now dated, and the collection has grown to an impressive 15, 639, 001 objects. Someone in charge is certainly an accurate counter, and I’ll be interested to see what he or she chooses to display in the new Burke.
The objects now out do get somewhat more interesting if you take your time. Few do. While I was seriously looking for reasons to rate Burke higher than 3 Compass, about 6 people breezed by the displays and left. The current permanents included the predictable (Northwest native culture), the unusual (lots about New Zealand’s Maoris), the dated (Korean weddings) and the strange (the Lao Fire Rocket Festival). In less-culture-more-science areas I learned about the mosasaur, a distant ancestor of the Komodo Dragon, that Mount Adams is the least likely Cascade peak to erupt, and that understanding evolution can be easy.
I’ll check back to see if The Burke’s plans are theoretical and long-range or concrete and imminent. In the meantime, the 3 compass holds.