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June 30, 2011

WSDOT, Burke team up to house work-zone artifacts

Museum to preserve historical objects found during road construction

Seattle– Construction crews digging into Seattle-area highway projects find more than just dirt below their work zones. They find artifacts – century-old bottles, shoes, and other everyday objects – that tell a story about the region’s long-buried past.

To house a growing collection of artifacts unearthed by highway crews, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is funding an expansion of the Burke Museum’s offsite storage facility. WSDOT’s $342,000 contribution will create storage space for 4,600 new boxes and add a new climate-control system to aid in the preservation of sensitive collections.

“The storage expansion project will result in the best care and curation of archaeological objects found by the state and ensure accessibility for research purposes,” said Steve Denton, archaeology project manager for the Burke Museum.

WSDOT has a staff of archaeologists who work with “mega projects” to assess and identify materials found during construction. The Burke Museum was identified as the only state-approved institution that would be qualified to curate all the potential materials expected for the Alaskan Way Viaduct and SR 520 projects.

“By caring for this material, our community can better learn about our past,” said Kevin Bartoy, cultural resources specialist for WSDOT. “Future generations can conduct studies about aspects of our local history that aren’t typically recorded, particularly communities underrepresented in the historical record but key to the development of our present, such as racial and ethnic minorities, women, and the working class.”

The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is located on the University of Washington Seattle campus. Founded in 1899, the Burke holds more than 14 million objects in its collections ranging from plants and mammals to fossils and cultural objects. For more information on the archaeology division of the Burke Museum, contact archy@u.washington.edu


The Burke Museum is located on the University of Washington campus, at the corner of NE 45th St. and 17th Ave. NE. Hours are 10 am to 5 pm daily, and until 8 pm on first Thursdays. Admission: $10.00 general, $8.00 senior, $7.50 student/ youth. Admission is free to children 4 and under, Burke members, UW students, faculty, and staff. Admission is free to the public on the first Thursday of each month. Prorated parking fees are $15 and partially refundable upon exit if paid in cash. Call 206-543-5590 or visit www.burkemuseum.org. The Burke Museum is an American Association of Museums Accredited Museum.

(206) 543-9762; FAX (206) 616-1274