Burke Museum Home

Past Exhibits

In addition to long-term exhibits, the Burke Museum also presents special exhibits that rotate several times a year. From conservation photography, to recent discoveries in natural history, to the finest traditional and contemporary cultural arts, Burke exhibits invite all visitors to examine the critical issues of our time.

Special Exhibits

Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired

Nov. 22, 2014 – July 27, 2015

Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired will explore the dynamic relationship between the Burke Museum and Northwest Native art, artists, and scholars. Featuring work by contemporary artists whose practice has been inspired by the objects in the Burke’s collections, the exhibit will demonstrate how today’s artists and art historians learn from past generations.

The Way We See It: Science Through the Eyes of Illustrators

June 24, 2014 – Oct. 26, 2014

Now through October 26 in the Burke Room, enjoy beautiful works from the 2014 graduates of the University of Washington’s Natural Science Illustration Certificate Program.

Imagine That. Surprising Stories and Amazing Objects from the Burke Museum

Apr. 12, 2014 – Oct. 26, 2014

The Burke collects a lot of things. Dust isn’t one of them.

Imagine That reveals the surprising stories, complex questions, and awe-inspiring answers hidden inside objects. See a new side of the Burke, and uncover some of the most fascinating, intriguing, and rare objects in its collection. Join scientists making daily discoveries in the exhibit, and learn how collections show us new things about the world around us every day. You might even learn something new about yourself.

Imagine that!

Elwha: A River Reborn

Nov. 23, 2013 – Mar. 9, 2014

Elwha: A River Reborn, a new exhibit from the Burke Museum, takes you into the Northwest's legendary Elwha River Valley to discover the people, places, and history behind the world's largest dam removal project, an unprecedented bet on the power of nature.

Endless Forms Most Beautiful

July 15, 2013 – Sept. 15, 2013

Works from the graduates of the University of Washington's Natural Science Illustration Certificate Program, 2013. 

Location: Burke Room

Empowering Women - Artisan Cooperatives That Transform Communities

June 12, 2013 – Oct. 27, 2013

From Africa to Asia to the Americas, female artisans are creating grassroots cooperatives to reach new markets, raise living standards, and transform lives.

Empowering Women provides an intimate view of the work of ten such enterprises in ten countries. This exhibition illustrates how the power of such grassroots collaborations transform women's lives, bringing together first-person quotes, stellar photographs, and stunning examples of the cooperatives' handmade traditional arts. 

Location: Burke Museum

Plastics Unwrapped

Dec. 1, 2012 – May 27, 2013

Can you imagine life before plastics? No waterproof raincoats? No plastic buckets? Humans existed without plastics for millennia. Now, we rely on plastics to meet our basic needs. They help keep us safe and healthy. They make our daily lives convenient in so many ways, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a world without them.

Location: Burke Museum

2012 International Conservation Photography Awards

June 30, 2012 – Nov. 25, 2012

The Burke will once again present the award-winners of this biennial juried competition that was initiated in 1997 by acclaimed local nature photographer, Art Wolfe. Up to 100 entries out of an anticipated pool of several thousand entries will be selected in a variety of competition categories. These photographs capture beautiful moments in the natural world, showcase the amazing abilities of environmental photographers, and raise awareness of conserving the world’s natural resources.

Location: Special Exhibits Gallery

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

Jan. 28, 2012 – June 10, 2012

Based on the book of the same title by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, this exhibit explores food traditions around the world through photographs of ten families at home, at the market, and surrounded by a week’s worth of groceries. Additional content examines a myriad of food issues in the 21st century, from sustainable farming to cultural survival.

Augmenting Hungry Planet is a related display, Salish Bounty: Traditional Native American Foods of Puget Sound, developed by guest curators Warren King George, Muckleshoot/Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, Historian/Traditionalist and Elizabeth M. Swanaset, Nooksack/Cowichan/Laq'a:mel Tribes, Cultural/Traditional Foods Specialist in partnership with the Burke Museum. Salish Bounty connects archaeological and historical research about 5000 years of tribal diets in the Puget Sound area to current efforts to revitalize Native food traditions.

Hungry Planet is toured by the Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota.

Location: Special Exhibits Gallery


Sept. 25, 2011 – Jan. 8, 2012

¡Carnaval!, Carnival, Mardi Gras: What is the origin of these words and the rowdy festivals associated with them? The exhibit explores the history, traditions, arts, and meaning of Carnival celebrations around the world, providing windows into eight communities in Europe and the Americas where Carnival is a high point of the year. The Burke will augment the music, masks, costumes and videos of the traveling display with a centerpiece installation of giant Carnival puppets created in the tradition of northeastern Brazil by Seattle-area artists affiliated with Brazil Center.

This exhibition has been made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is brought to you by Mid-America Arts Alliance. ¡Carnaval! was organized by the Museum of International Folk Art

Location: Special Exhibits Gallery

Wolves and Wild Lands in the 21st Century

June 4, 2011 – Sept. 5, 2011

Wolves and Wild Lands in the 21st Century presents a contemporary perspective on wolves in North America, and focusing on how wolves and humans have coexisted for thousands of years, including wolves in Washington State.

The Owl and the Woodpecker

Mar. 19, 2011 – Aug. 7, 2011
yellow shafted northern flickers

In March 2011, the Burke Museum premiered a new exhibit of conservation photography, based on the book The Owl and the Woodpecker, by acclaimed nature photographer and environmental conservationist Paul Bannick.

Weaving Heritage: Textile Masterpieces from the Burke Collection

Oct. 2, 2010 – Feb. 27, 2011

Weaving Heritage: Textile Masterpieces from the Burke Collection, the first major exhibition of the museum's international textile collection, will display textile masterpieces from the peoples of the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

International Conservation Photography Awards

June 19, 2010 – Sept. 6, 2010
Beluga Whales, Swimming under Ice (White Sea, northern Russia)

The International Conservation Photography Awards (ICP Awards) competition was founded in 1997 by Art Wolfe, a Seattle native and well-known nature photographer and published author. This summer, for the first time, the Burke Museum presents the winners of the 2010 ICP Awards in an exhibit of more than 75 images representing the best of conservation photography from around the world.

Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway

Dec. 19, 2009 – May 31, 2010
Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway cover

This premiere of a nationally-touring exhibit will take visitors on a "road trip" through the American West to learn about our region’s intriguing fossils and the stories they tell about the past, based on the book by the celebrated duo Ray Troll and Kirk Johnson.

Wondrous Cold

Oct. 3, 2009 – Nov. 29, 2009

A new exhibit at the Burke Museum offers a glimpse at the life of researchers on the world's most hostile continent - Antarctica - through large format photographs, displays of camp equipment, and presentations of recent research findings from the University of Washington.

Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Indigenous Voices Reply

May 30, 2009 – Nov. 29, 2009
South Entrance

One hundred years after the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (A-Y-P), the Burke Museum has organized A-Y-P: Indigenous Voices Reply,an exhibit that will juxtapose historic objects and photographs from the 1909 fair with contemporary artwork by 16 Native artists to explore how the representation and understanding of indigenous people and cultures has changed over 100 years.

Coffee: The World in Your Cup

Jan. 24, 2009 – Sept. 7, 2009
Handful of coffee cherries

Coffee is one of the world's most widely traded commodities, and has had a tremendous impact not only on the local economy and character of the Pacific Northwest, but also on cultures, economies, and environments across the globe. This exhibit explores the fascinating world behind the coffee we drink.

Arctic Wings: Miracle of Migration

Sept. 13, 2008 – Dec. 31, 2008
Pacific Loon on nest

Powerful images by acclaimed wildlife photographers tell the international story of the thousands of migratory birds from across six continents that depend on the politically contested Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for survival each year. Organized by the Burke Museum and Braided River, the conservation imprint of The Mountaineers Books.

From the Solomon Islands 1928-30

Aug. 28, 2008 – July 12, 2009
Solomon Islands exhibit

This exhibit features materials from the Solomon islands collected by Walter J. Eyerdam. In the late 1920s, Mr. Eyerdam was hired as an ornithologist for the American Museum of Natural History's Whitney South Seas Expedition. At the time Eyerdam visited the Solomon islands in the 1920s, the materials he collected were still made for use rather than sale. Eyerdam's grandsons, Jeff and Michael Homchick, donated the materials to the Burke Museum.

Irreplaceable: Wildlife in a Warming World

July 11, 2008 – Aug. 10, 2008

Climate change has emerged as one of the most pressing challenges facing theworld today. Through imagesthat capture both the wonder and fragility of our nation's plants andanimals, the Irreplaceable exhibit seeks to educate people and inspire usto act.

The Last Polar Bear: Facing the Truth of a Warming World

June 27, 2008 – Dec. 31, 2008
A polar bear family

With camera in hand, wildlife photographer Steven Kazlowski has dedicated over eight years of work to bring to life the immediate reality of this most pressing environmental crisis — the devastation of the Arctic ecosystem through global warming and the endangerment of polar bears.

Fast Moving Water: The Hoh River Story

Apr. 23, 2008 – June 8, 2008
Owl Creek in winter

Stunning images by Washington wildlife photographer Keith Lazelle capture the dramatic beauty of the Olympic Peninsula's Hoh River, a pristine river flowing today as one of the United States'most successful examples of habitat conservation.

Peoples of the Plateau: The Indian Photographs of Lee Moorhouse, 1898-1915

Jan. 26, 2008 – June 8, 2008

>In Peoples of the Plateau, historic photos by Lee Moorhousedocument a visual record of Native American life in the interior Northwest as it transitioned from frontier life to the modern era. This photography exhibit was organized by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

This Place Called Home

Jan. 26, 2008 – June 8, 2008
the place called home

This Place Called Home, an exhibit of Plateau native cultural arts, brings out the best of the Burke’s own eastern Washington collections, including beadwork, cradle boards, baskets, blankets, and more. The exhibit includes video interviews with tribal elders discussing their family heirlooms and ancestors.

In Search of Giant Squid

Sept. 22, 2007 – Dec. 31, 2007
Squid Painting Vertical

Created by the Smithsonian Institution, this exhibit presents the latest research on the giant squid—one of the world’s largest and most mysterious creatures.

Yellowstone to Yukon: Freedom to Roam

June 16, 2007 – Dec. 31, 2007
Y2Y Goat Photo

This new exhibit presents stunning photographs by Florian Shulz of the Rocky Mountain west and documents an ambitious effort to preserve wildlife corridors from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to Canada's Yukon Territories. The exhibit was created by the Burke Museum in collaboration with The Mountaineers Books and Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and features over 70 images by German-born photographer, Florian Shulz.

Our People, Our Land, Our Images

Mar. 3, 2007 – May 28, 2007
Auto Immune Response

This exhibition brings together 26 Indigenous photographers from throughout the US, Canada, Peru and New Zealand to explore the dynamic field of Indigenous photography.Their artworks reflect a diversity of technologies, subject matter, vision, and style, but resonate together by the ties to their own communities. Developed by the CN Gorman Museum.

In the Spirit of the Ancestors

Mar. 2, 2007 – Sept. 3, 2007
Wolf and Moon Drum

The Burke Museum presented the first comprehensive exhibition of contemporary Northwest Coast Native American art from the Burke’s own collections.Selected by two Burke Museum curators and two guest curators from more than 2,400 contemporary pieces in the museum’s ethnology collection.

Sacred Portraits from Tibet

Nov. 4, 2006 – Feb. 4, 2007

This display ofthangkas large, delicately painted Tibetan religious paintings –augmented the photographs of Vanished Kingdom. The exhibit included a traditional Tibetan Buddhist altar by local artist and well-known monk, Dhawa Dhondup Ngoche.

Vanished Kingdoms: The Wulsin Photographs of Tibet, China & Mongolia 1921-1925

Nov. 4, 2006 – Feb. 4, 2007

These rare, early color photographs, taken by Frederick and Janet Wulsin on a four-year trek, were augmented by a display of Asian art from the Burke Museum collection, Sacred Portraits from Tibet.

A Celebration of Souls: Day of the Dead in Southern Mexico

Sept. 30, 2006 – Dec. 31, 2006
Day of the Dead skulls

Visitors experienced Mexican Day of the Dead traditions through a bilingual photography exhibit exploding with the rich color and spirit of the traditions of the Day of the Dead (Da de Muertos) in rural Oaxaca. A large altar created by local Mexican artist Isaac Hernndez Ruiz anchored Celebration of Souls and gave visitors an up close look at the symbolism that shapes this Mexican tradition.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

June 24, 2006 – Sept. 4, 2006
Black bear

This annual international wildlife photography competition is sponsored by BBC Wildlife Magazine and the Natural History Museum of London and features nearly 100 prize-winning photographs in a broad range of wildlife categories.

Toi Maori: The Eternal Thread

Feb. 4, 2006 – May 29, 2006
Cloak, Kakahu Korowai

The Burke was one of only four U.S. venues invited to host this exhibit of contemporary Maori weaving art from New Zealand. The Burke Museum also displayed a small selection of Northwest Coast robes from its collection.

Fusing Traditions: Transformations in Glass by Native American Artists

Oct. 1, 2005 – Dec. 31, 2005
Face artifact

Nineteen Native American artists created works of art that draw upon their rich heritage to forge a contemporary Indian aesthetic. Their work shows a clear continuity with the past while forging new statements in art using the medium of glass to reflect contemporary sensibilities.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land

June 23, 2005 – Dec. 31, 2005
polar bear

This exhibit showed forty-nine extraordinary photographs of the landscapes, wildlife, and people of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska by renowned photographer Subhankar Banerjee.

Life Abounds: Arctic Native Wildlife Art

June 23, 2005 – Sept. 5, 2005
Animal-like artifact

A selection of traditional and contemporary Arctic animals from the museum's renowned Native American art collection and from theInuit artcollection of John and Joyce Price.

The Burgess Shale: Evolution’s Big Bang

Nov. 20, 2004 – Mar. 6, 2005

505 million years agoa burst of life erupted that wasmore varied than inany other known period of time. The Burgess Shale fossils, foundhigh in the Canadian Rockies, include ancestors of virtually all known living animals. Image courtesy Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation. Traveling exhibit from SITES.

Selva Fría: Cold Jungle

Apr. 7, 2004 – May 16, 2004
Chilean temperate rainforest

A photographic journey to the rain forests of southern Chile, Selva Fría: Cold Jungle, Photographs of the Chilean Temperate Rainforest, featured the rich color photographs of Chilean photographer Mariana Matthews.

Dinosaurs of Darkness

Mar. 26, 2004 – Oct. 17, 2004
Probactrosaurus gobiensis skull

Dinosaurs of Darkness was a riveting international touring exhibit from Monash Science Center, Melbourne, Australia, featuring recently discovered dinosaurs that lived in the extreme polar regions of the globe, where darkness reigned in winter and temperatures plunged below freezing...

Reverent Remembrance: Honoring the Dead

Oct. 2, 2003 – Feb. 22, 2004
Reverent Remembrances exhibit promotion

Explorethe ancient Celtic roots of Halloween, the colorful Mexican Day of the Dead, mummification and other death rituals in ancient Egypt, Indonesian cliff burials, and modern American memorials, including those following the 9/11 tragedy.

Out of the Silence: The Enduring Power of Totem Poles

Oct. 3, 2002 – Sept. 1, 2003

Whales, bears, and ravens are interwoven with the haunting photographs of Adelaide de Menil and vibrant images of pole-raising ceremonies.A retrospective view of Northwest Coast native totem pole traditions—from the earliest drawings of totem poles, through the time of seeming silence in the mid-1900s, to the vitality of First Nations cultures today.

The Big One: Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest

Feb. 28, 2002 – Sept. 2, 2002
big one earthquake

We live in earthquake country. Over the last 150 years, eight major earthquakes have shaken the Northwest. The 2001 Nisqually earthquake cracked buildings and crushed cars – but it could have been far worse! Earthquakes with much greater destructive power occurred here in the past and are certain to happen again. The question, say geologists, is not if a Big One will occur here, but when. This exhibit was developed by the Burke Museum.

Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: China’s Cultural Revolution

Jan. 24, 2002 – Mar. 10, 2002
ordinary times

Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times is one of the few museum exhibits to examine the tumultuous Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which shook China from 1966 to 1976. Learn about this turbulent time in China's history; see the paraphernalia of Red Guards on the march; and ponder the items and artifacts of everyday life, full of redness and Mao and militancy.

The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition

June 14, 2001 – Dec. 31, 2001
endurance antarctic expedition

The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition brings to life one of the greatest tales of survival in exploration history: the epic story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 voyage. Toured by the American Museum of Natural History, New York.

Entwined with Life: Native American Basketry

Oct. 26, 2000 – May 6, 2001

From ancient times, Native American basket weavers have transformed roots, bark, ferns, and grasses into baskets unsurpassed for their aesthetic appeal. These works of art and the people who have designed and woven the baskets were at the heart of this exhibit. Includes a basketry ID game and K–12 teachers guide.

Mountain Patterns: The Survival of Nuosu Culture in China

Mar. 1, 2000 – Sept. 4, 2000

The Burke Ethnology collection includes over 500 objects made and used by the Nuosu people, a branch of the Yi nationality living in China's Liangshan, or Cool Mountains. Nuosu specialists highly respected for their artistic skill include silversmiths, lacquer makers, seamstresses, musicians and bimo priests, who manufactured ritual implements and wrote books of sacred texts.