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Dinosaurs at the Burke Museum
© University of Washington, Mary Levin, 8/95

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Written by Scott Messmore
The Pacific Northwest of the United States is an area with a long and rich heritage involving Native Americans, gold seeking miners from the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and cultures of the Pacific Rim. The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture aims to promote the natural world and better understanding between cultures with exhibits and artwork. Visitors to the Burke Museum can see 100-million year old dinosaurs, ancient tribal masks and learn how earthquakes have impacted the region. The museum traces its roots to 1885 when a group of naturalists formed a small museum on the University
of Washington campus. The little museum grew into the Washington State Museum and today is named in honor of Judge Thomas Burke who worked toward better understanding between cultures. The Burke Museum is divided into three groups (geology, anthropology and zoology) with more than four million artifacts, fossils and artworks. The Burke Museum isn't a sleepy little college museum as 70,000 people stop by to see the dinosaurs, insects, woven baskets, tribal masks and thousands of fossils. The Burke Museum's major exhibits presently include The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, running until December 31, 2001
The Endurance Kelling Over, Frank Hurley, 1915
© Royal Geographical Society
and The Big One, Then and Now: Northwest Earthquakes, which runs from February to September of 2002.

Shackleton Exhibit

The amazing journey of Sir Earnest Shackleton's 1914 trip to the bottom of the world that didn't return for another two years. Shackleton led his 22-man expedition to within one day's sailing of Antarctica when the Endurance became jammed in by ice flows. The Endurance slowly succumbed to the relentless shifting of the ice flows and eventually sank, leaving the expedition stranded with their lifeboats. Shackleton and his men survived the freezing elements for five months before making their way to Elephant Island, a tiny rock outcrop in the sea. Shackleton and five men would set sail in one lifeboat across 800 miles of stormy seas to land on South Georgia Island. It took Shackleton four attempts to reach his crew with a rescue party. The Endurance expedition was gone from England for
nearly two years. As testimony to his leadership and skill as a leader, not one of Shackleton's men perished during the entire expedition. The Burke Museum exhibit includes four short videos narrated by acclaimed actor Liam Neeson, ship models and 150 photographs by Endurance expedition photographer Frank Hurley. Frank Hurley shot film and black and white still photography of the voyage. The pictures stark beauty detail the plight of the crew, their amazing spirit and courage and stand on their own as art work even after nearly a century. Hurley was a fearless cameraman who
Sir Ernest Shackleton, Frank Hurley, Feb 1915
© Scott Polar Research Institute
plunged into four-foot deep, freezing water to rescue glass negatives before the Endurance finally succumbed to the crushing ice flow.

Hours of Operation and Location

The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is located on the campus of the University of Washington at the corner of Northeast 45th Street and 17th Avenue Northeast. The museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Thursdays, the museum is open until 8 p.m. The museum is closed on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

For more information about the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, call 206-543-5590.

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Last Updated: September 23, 2015