About the Burke
Behind-the-scenes collections tour

Photo: Andrew Waits

About the Burke

A place to connect with the life before you

The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture was founded in 1885. It is the oldest public museum in Washington state and was designated the State Museum in 1899. Its administration resides with the University of Washington College of Arts & Sciences. The Burke recognizes that the museum sits on traditional Indigenous lands. The Burke holds deep respect for Indigenous knowledge, and is dedicated to collaborating with diverse Native populations, sharing collections and learning together.

The Burke is a research- and collections-based museum that serves many audiences and communities, including Washington state residents, tourists and visitors to Seattle, educators and students, Indigenous and Pacific communities, and researchers, scholars, and enthusiasts. The 16 million objects (and counting!) in the Burke collections are used in many ways, including:

  • For education: More than 35,000 Washington Pre-K–12 students visit the Burke every year, and 70,000 additional students are reached through programs that travel throughout the state.
  • For research: The Burke is an active research museum. The collections are a respected and relied-upon resource for researchers here and around the globe. From lost boat-making techniques to the health of Puget Sound, our latest research newsletter (PDF) shows just some of the ways researchers use our collections. 

As a library of:

  • Cultural heritage: The cultural objects that we care for teach us about the past, but also inspire new works of art from contemporary artists and play an integral part in living culture. By bringing people and objects together, new stories are revealed.
  • Biodiversity: By collecting and preserving specimens, we can learn more about how the natural world has changed and better predict its future. There is much to learn, and these specimens will help answer questions that have yet to be asked.

The Burke Museum creates a better understanding of the world and our place in it. The museum is responsible for the Washington state collections of natural and cultural heritage and sharing the knowledge that makes them meaningful. The Burke welcomes a broad and diverse audience and provides a community gathering place that nurtures lifelong learning and encourages respect, responsibility and reflection.


The Burke Museum inspires people to value their connection with all life—and act accordingly.


Integrity. Being open and truthful; adhering to the highest ethical and professional standards.

Respect. Respecting each other and the objects and ideas with which we work; welcoming diverse communities and divergent points of view.

Excellence. Pursuing excellence in each of our endeavors; acting as leaders in our respective fields. 

Stewardship. Protecting the collections and information we hold for future generations; conducting business in a sustainable way.

Curiosity. Encouraging curiosity in ourselves and our visitors; posing questions and seeking answers about the world and our place in it.

Relevance. Exploring critical issues involving nature, cultures and their interconnections; being a valued resource for the communities we serve. 

Annual Reports

See a snapshot of the Burke and highlights from past years.

Burke annual report cover from 2014-2015, titled "In Our Own Words"


Image of object tags from the outside of the 2014 annual report.


Text on a red background from a cropped image of the cover of the 2013 annual report.


A replica of Tlingit mortuary pole and a ridicule pole in front of the entrance of the museum from the cover of the 2011 annual report.


A young boy looks at a model of a nautilus in the cover image of the 2010 annual report.



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