A look back at 2015

December 28, 2015
Burke Museum

It’s been an amazing year at the Burke Museum! From thought-provoking exhibits and fun events to exciting research discoveries and incredible community partnerships—there's a lot to highlight from this past year, and even more to look forward to in 2016! We're so happy that you're part of the Burke and hope you enjoy this quick look back at the year. Don’t forget to check out our blog to see what we’re up to now.

Seahawks Super Bowl rally

Who says you can’t get loud in a museum? The Burke kicked off 2015 with a Seahawks Super Bowl rally featuring an incredible performance by Gene Tagaban, “One Crazy Raven,” a Cherokee, Tlingit and Filipino storyteller. He performed at the rally to celebrate the Seahawks’ trip to Super Bowl XLIX and the Burke’s display of the Kwakwaka’wakw mask that inspired the team’s original logo (November 2014 – July 2015). Watch this video of the rally to re-live the excitement!

Gene Tagaban, “One Crazy Raven,” performs at a Seahawks Super Bowl rally at the Burke

Gene Tagaban, “One Crazy Raven,” performs at a rally to celebrate the Seahawks’ trip to Super Bowl XLIX.

Photo: Burke Museum

Burke paleontologists discover Washington’s first dinosaur fossil

Earlier this year, Burke Museum paleontologists announced that they discovered the first dinosaur fossil ever found in Washington state! The fossil is a partial left thigh bone of a theropod dinosaur, the group of two-legged, meat-eating dinosaurs that includes Velociraptor, Tyrannosaurus rex and modern birds. It was found along the shores of Sucia Island State Park in the San Juan Islands. Read more about the discovery of Washington’s first dinosaur.

The dinosaur fossil fragment is held by Christian Sidor while Brandon Peecook holds a full-size femur cast

Dr. Christian Sidor, Burke curator of vertebrate paleontology, and Brandon Peecook, UW graduate student, show the size and placement of the fossil fragment compared to the cast of a Daspletosaurus femur.

Photo: Burke Museum

BurkeMobile reaches littlest learners

The Burke recently received several grants that allow us to reach more communities with our BurkeMobile offsite programs and expand offerings for our littlest learners. We’re working closely with several communities across the State, including the small town of Royal City. Check out our blog post, “Exploring science and dinosaurs” to see a glimpse of the BurkeMobile in action in Royal City earlier this year.

Two young girls at a BurkeMobile community night

A BurkeMobile community night in Royal City, Washington.  

Photo: Burke Museum

Tiny plant fossils a window into Earth’s landscape millions of years ago

Minuscule, fossilized pieces of plants could tell a detailed story of what the Earth looked like 50 million years ago. Regan Dunn, former Burke paleontology collections manager, and Caroline Strömberg, curator of paleobotany, discovered a way to determine the tree cover and density of trees, shrubs and bushes in locations over time based on clues in the cells of plant fossils preserved in rocks and soil. Learn more about their findings.

Three researchers in the desert of Argentina

The researchers work in Miocene-aged deposits near Rio Chico in Chubut Province, Argentina.

Photo: Regan Dunn

The New Burke

The Burke is working on building a new home and made great progress toward that goal in 2015! As the Washington State Museum of Natural History and Culture, we take great pride in caring for more than 16 million objects for the people of Washington. These invaluable objects help us understand the past, make decisions about the present and plan for the future. The new state-of-the art facility with climate control, cutting-edge labs, and larger collections spaces will help us protect these fragile objects for generations to come and share them in new and exciting ways. We're still several years away from opening the new facility (expected in 2019), and we're incredibly grateful to have support from Washington State, King County and the City of Seattle. We will keep you updated on our progress. Learn more about the New Burke on our website.  

Watercolor illustration of New Burke from the street

Illustration: Olson Kundig | Stephanie Bower Architectural Illustration

Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired

The Burke Museum’s Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Native Art celebrated 10 years of awarding grants to artists and scholars to visit the Burke Museum collection with an exhibit, Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired (November 2014 – July 2015). Grant recipients showcased their art alongside the pieces from the Burke that they identified as key to their learning and their thoughts on this process—the conversations between the old and the new—in their own words. See the incredible results in our blog post about Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired.

Spirit Belt and Naaxiin Leggings

Spirit Belt (left): Evelyn Vanderhoop, Haida, 2008-9. Burke Museum #2009-183/1. Naaxiin (Chilkat) Leggings (right): Unknown artist, Tlingit. Burke Museum #1954.

Photo: Richard Brown Photography

Increase in known fish species living in the Salish Sea

A new report co-authored by Ted Pietsch, Burke Museum emeritus curator of ichthyology, found that the number of known fish species in the Salish Sea has increased significantly over the last 35 years. In total, 253 fish species have been recorded in the Salish Sea—14% more than the last count.  Learn more about the report and Ted’s upcoming book, Fishes of the Salish Sea.

Silverspotted Sculpin illustration

Silverspotted Sculpin (Blepsias cirrhosis).  

Illustration: Joseph R. Tomelleri

Behind the scenes of the World’s largest spread wing collection

Audubon Magazine featured a behind-the-scenes look at our spread wing collection—the largest of its kind in the world. The wing collection began as a result of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill when more than 1,500 dead oil-coated birds came to the Burke’s ornithology collection. It wasn’t practical to preserve so many oil-soaked bodies, so instead our ornithologists decided to rescue what they could—the wings. The collection continues to grow and is studied constantly by scientific researchers and artists. Read “Behind the Scenes of the World’s Largest Bird Wing Collection” on the Audubon’s website.

Student holding a spread wing

University of Washington graduate student Ethan Linck explains the spread wing collection to a Burke member.

Photo: Andrew Waits

Titanoboa: Monster Snake slithers to Burke Museum

In late summer, a 48-foot-long replica of the largest snake ever found on Earth slithered its way from the Smithsonian to the Burke Museum (August–November 2015). Titanoboa lived 60 million years ago and weighed nearly 2,500 pounds. Its fossils were discovered by scientists working in Colombian coal mine. The Seattle Times captured a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to install a 48-foot-long replica snake in their article “Snake wrestling a monster.”

Titanoboa assembly

Burke Museum and Smithsonian Traveling Exhibits staff work together to assemble the massive Titanoboa replica snake upon its arrival to the Burke.

Photo: Burke Museum

A visit from the President & First Lady of the Marshall Islands

The Republic of the Marshall Islands President Christopher J. Loeak and First Lady Lieom Anono Loeak visited the Burke in early October where they met University of Washington undergraduates of Pacific Islander heritage who are researching cultural objects at the Burke. In addition, the President and First Lady shared their knowledge of Marshallese cultural objects in the Burke’s collection. Learn more about their visit.

President Loeak holding a paddle in the Burke collection

President Loeak talks to Psalm Wooching about a Marshallese paddle from the Burke collection.

Photo: Burke Museum

Understanding how bats and plants evolved together

Sharlene Santana, Burke curator of mammals, is studying why some groups of mammals, such as bats, show extreme diversity while other groups do not. The UW Daily recently reported on a large grant Sharlene received from the National Science Foundation to study how short-tailed fruit bats’ sense of smell may have evolved alongside the scent of fruits they eat. Read more about her research into the co-evolutionary relationship between bats and the fruits they eat in the article, “UW researchers study how bats and plants evolved together.”

Bat specimens in the Burke’s mammalogy collection.

Bat specimens in the Burke’s mammalogy collection.

Photo: Andrew Waits

Small organisms have big story to tell about health of Puget Sound

A team of Burke paleontologists have found that tiny organisms called foraminifera have a big story to tell about the health of Puget Sound. Two recent studies about the health of Bellingham Bay and inlets in the Bremerton area found the diversity and number of foraminifera—single-celled marine organisms that live on the seafloor—deteriorated significantly. Keep reading about their findings.

Elphidiella hannai, a species of foraminifera found in Bellingham Bay and Bremerton, in its healthy form (left) and partially dissolved (right).

Photo: Burke Museum

Restoring knowledge and reconstructing Angyaaq

Sven Haakanson, Burke curator of North American anthropology, led teams of volunteers and community members to build a full-size Angyaaq—a traditional Native boat once made by Alaska’s Sugpiat peoples—at the Burke Museum in December 2015. The effort began after Sven discovered a model Angyaaq in the Burke collection (one of 13 known to exist in museum collections in the world) and began working with the community to restore knowledge that was previously lost. This summer, Sven and several students will go back to Alaska’s Kodiak Island where they’ll build more boats together with the Sugpiat. Watch this time-lapse video of the Angyaaq construction process.

Model angyaaq with partially-constructed full-size boat in background

This model Angyaaq from the Burke collection is one of 13 known to exist in museum collections in the world. This model has played a key role in the revitalization of creating new full-sized boats.

Photo: Burke Museum

For more highlights from the past year, check out our 2014-2015 annual report, “In Our Own Words” or visit our blog to see our most recent updates. 

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