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Seattle— When the Nisqually earthquake rattled the foundation of the Northwest last February, Burke Museum staff had already been hard at work on a new earthquake exhibit to be installed in the temporary gallery. In an instant, the scope of that project changed shape and began to grow.

On February, 28, 2002, the one-year anniversary of the Nisqually quake, the Burke will launch an innovative, six-point project geared towards educating Northwest communities about earthquakes in our region. The Big One: Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest (coordinated by Ruth Pelz, curated by Dr. Liz. Nesbitt, and produced in collaboration with local, state, and national preparedness organizations) addresses key questions that every Northwesterner should know: Why are earthquakes inevitable here? What hazards do they present? What can we do to prepare?

Big One project components include: an interactive exhibit at the Burke Museum, an informative traveling exhibit, a Visiting Scientist program, traveling study kits, a comprehensive website, and a variety of educational programs. All facets are designed to encourage the public to learn more about the region’s unique and fascinating geology, to think seriously about the risks of a major earthquake in the Northwest, and to take basic steps to reduce the potential damage to our homes and communities.

Burke Exhibit, Feb. 28–Sept 2, 2002

Visitors to the Burke exhibit will encounter Northwest earthquakes from many perspectives. A dramatic display from the 2001 event offers opportunities to peek inside a van crushed by falling bricks in Pioneer Square, view TV news coverage of the event, and listen to tapes of 911 calls and the SeaTac air traffic control. Visitors can also walk through a retrofitted "house," where they can get an up-close look at important home safety measures, such as proper strapping of the water heater. And they’ll find lots of information on earthquake science, from basic facts of plate tectonics to intriguing examples of cutting-edge research. Find out what scientists are learning about the recently discovered fault beneath Puget Sound and follow the incredible detective story that first convinced scientists that major earthquakes—"Big Ones" — do happen here.

Hands-on models, computer resources, and reading materials offer ways to learn more. For example, there’s a 3-D model of Northwest geology that pulls apart and lights up to show the location of historic (and possible future) earthquakes and a "shaking table" that demonstrates the effects of earthquakes on buildings. What’s a lava lamp got to do with Northwest earthquakes? Visitors to the exhibit will learn that, too.

Traveling Exhibit, Feb. 2002–Feb. 2004

A compact version of The Big One: Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest is being offered for display in communities around the Northwest. The core of the traveling exhibit is a freestanding panel display, which presents the geological processes that cause Northwest earthquakes, the ways earthquakes are detected and measured, the variety of hazards they can incite, and what we can do to prepare. The traveling exhibit also includes take-away information on earthquake preparedness, three interactive displays, a CD containing historic photos of past Washington earthquakes, and classroom materials. The traveling version of The Big One opens with a special preview showing at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia on February 7, 2002, and then begins a two-year regional tour.*

* Initial bookings include: February 27–March 27, Discovery Center, The Dalles, Oregon; April 3–May 1, Everett Public Library. Contact the Burke PR office for a complete list.

Visiting Scientist

The Burke Museum’s Senior Regional Geologist Dr. Catherine Townsend is the project’s "Visiting Scientist." She will spend 2–3 days in each community that hosts the traveling exhibit, presenting public science lectures in schools, libraries and community centers —a program made possible through support from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Townsend is an award-winning teacher and researcher with special interest in how the mountain systems of North America were formed. Her engaging presentation, "Earthquakes, Mountains, and the Geologic History of Washington," will augment the traveling exhibit by placing recent earthquakes into the context of the fascinating geological history of the Northwest.

School Study Kits

Two study kits— containing specimens, scientific instruments, books, videos, and lesson plans— will accompany the traveling exhibit and be available for use by local schools and community groups. These kits are designed to help students and teachers get more from the exhibit and meet Washington State learning requirements in earth science. At the conclusion of the traveling exhibit, these study kits will become part of the Burke Museum’s permanent educational collection, where they will provide an ongoing resource to educators. The Burke has been traveling creating study kits for over 70 years and has the largest such resource in the Pacific Northwest.

Washington Geology Website

In conjunction with The Big One: Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, the Burke Museum is launching a new website on the geological history of Washington, the first comprehensive guide for the general public on the impressive geological processes that have shaped our state. The Big One website will incorporate downloadable curriculum for use in classrooms, the full content of the traveling exhibit, and links to other earthquake-related resources. Like the kits, it will live beyond the exhibit as a long-term addition to the Burke’s respected online educational resources.

Public Programs

A variety of public programs and events will be offered at the Burke Museum as part of the project, The Big One: Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest. From lectures by leading scientists, to home retrofitting workshops and special family events, the Burke has planned a wide range of public programming, aimed at inspiring visitors to think about what they can do to prepare for a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. For a complete schedule of Big One programs, please visit the Events Page.

Project Partners

The Big One: Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest has been created and produced in collaboration with dozens of leading researchers from the University of Washington and the US Geological Service and a wide variety of public organizations and private sponsors. Supporters and project partners include State Farm Insurance Companies, National Science Foundation, Washington Sea Grant, The Boeing Company, University of Washington (Office of Research, Depts. of Earth & Space Sciences and Civil Engineering, College of Arts and Sciences), Seattle Public Utilities, Washington State Emergency Management Division, Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, Puget Sound Energy, Seattle Times, KING5, US Geological Survey, Seattle Project Impact, Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Cascadia Region Earthquake Work Group, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Museum of History and Industry.


Press Contact:

Natasha Dworkin
Public Relations Manager
Phone: 206-543-9762
Fax: 206-616-1274

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© 2002 Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture
University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-3010
Phone: 206-543-5590