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The oldest specimens in the Burke mammal collection date from the end of the nineteenth century, when a local Seattle group known as the "Young Naturalists' Society" established a museum collection associated with the University that led to the establishment of the Washington State Museum in 1899. The museum received its further designation as the Thomas Burke Memorial Washington State Museum in 1962, at which time its mammal collection numbered only about 3,000 specimens. Early contributors to the collection were D. E. Brown, J. M. Edson, Earl Larrison, Victor Scheffer, Arthur and Ruth Svihla, Martha Flahaut, Ernest Walker, and Walter Dalquest. Further collection brought the total numbers to around 7,000 by the mid 1980s, at which time Dr. Murray Johnson, as Affiliate Curator, assumed his very active and dynamic curatorial role. The northwestern U.S.A., North America, and the Pacific Rim remain the geographic center of our mammal collection today. The tremendous growth of the collection since the mid 1980s has brought it to its present size of about 50,000 specimens.

Search the Mammology Database

Golden-mantled ground squirrel, Spermophilus lateralis.
Golden-mantled ground squirrel, Spermophilus lateralis
Courtesy: freestockphotos

The Burke Mammal Collection ranks as the 9th-largest university collection in North America and the 18th-largest of all collections in the Western Hemisphere. Included in our holdings are 70 species of carnivores, 140 bat species, 262 rodent species, 38 primate species, and 37 marine mammal species, with one specimen of the extinct Steller's sea cow.

The collection is represented by specimens from North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe. Over half of the specimens (26,292) are from Washington State. Other well represented areas of the Northwest are Oregon (11%), British Columbia (4%), and Alaska (4%).

The Burke also participates in a multi-museum mammal database (MaNIS).

The Collection

50,000 total specimens
27,000 study skins 
36,000 skulls 
14,000 skeletons 
1,000 fluid-preserved specimens 
3,000 frozen tissues 

Use of Research Collection

The specimens and associated database of the Burke Museum's mammal collection are available to qualified researchers. For information on the collection contact:

Jeff Bradley, Collection Manager
Email: jebrad@u.washington.edu

Sharlene Santana, Curator of Mammals
Email: ssantana@u.washington.edu

Frozen Tissue Collection

The Burke Museum maintains a Genetic Resources Collection of frozen tissues of mammals, birds, and other organisms. For access to these materials contact:

Sharon Birks, Genetic Resources Manager Email:sbirks@u.washington.edu