Burke Museum Home

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can someone identify my rock for me?
A: Yes, we can. E-mail us at lnesbitt@u.washington.edu (or call us at 206-543-7907) and make an appointment to ensure that one of us is here to meet you when you bring it in.

Q: Will you take it away if it is scientifically valuable?
A: No! We do not take anything away from anyone; we are here to help you learn more about geology. However, you may donate it to the museum if you wish, and if it is of scientific interest.

Q: Will you buy my rock?
A: No, we do not purchase rocks.

Q: How can I learn more about local geology?
A: You'll find an excellent introduction to the geology of this area in our pages Northwest Origins: The Geologic History of Washington. Another suggestion: Visit the Burke Museum and explore our permanent exhibit The Life and Times of Washington State.

Museum Studies graduate student
A Museum Studies graduate student, working in the mineral collection.
Photo by Ron Eng

You can see that this rock is made up of different minerals.
Photo by Ron Eng

Q: What is the state gem?
The Washington state gem is petrified wood. One of the best places to see petrified wood is the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage.

Q: What's a rock?
A: Rocks are naturally formed aggregates of minerals, a body of undifferentiated mineral matter, or a body of solid organic matter. There are three major rock types: igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary.

Q: What's a mineral?
A: Minerals are naturally occurring inorganic elements or compounds that have a characteristic chemical composition, crystal form, and physical properties, including an orderly internal structure.

Q: What is a gem?
A: See our page on gems, "Birthstones: Myth and History."

Amethysts line the inside of this geode.
Photo by Ron Eng