Building a future grounded in respect
Relationships maintained between communities and the Burke Museum preserve the ingenuity, creativity, science, and complex knowledge of these cultural resources. Community members are the experts in these areas, and we are the caretakers.
We are dedicated to actively involving communities in every aspect of our work—learning from communities and building a more ethical and collaborative future together.
Search the Collection
Photographs of most cultural objects and over 5,000 photos from our archive collections are accessible in the Contemporary Culture Database.
The collections’ focus is primarily on cultures of the Pacific Region, including particular strengths in Native American art and artifacts.
The collections include the fifth largest collection of Northwest Coast objects in the U.S., the largest collection of Palauan storyboards in the world, one of the top-five Alaskan Arctic collections in the world, and the largest collection of utilitarian Mexican pottery in a public museum outside of Mexico.
Pacific Northwest Coast
Alaskan Arctic and Subarctic
Mexican, Central and South America
Basketry from around the world
Canoes from around the world
Archival Photograph Collection
University of Washington Courses
Students can also take classes in the Burke Museum Contemporary Culture Collections, engaging in cultural studies, curation, interpretation and independent research.
Questions & Answers
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most common questions we receive. Have another question that you need help with? Contact us.
I’m a researcher. Can I visit the collection?
The Burke Museum moved to a brand new facility! In order to pack and prepare for opening in October 2019, the Culture collections are currently closed. We greatly appreciate the community's patience while we move our collections to their new home. Please visit the contemporary cultural database to search the collections.
Contemporary culture contacts during closure:
- Holly Barker for research questions, donations and other needs
- Bridget Johnson for questions about the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Native Art
The Burke Museum actively encourages research on all of its collections. Interested researchers should contact us to obtain information on available collections, the research process and to schedule an appointment to discuss an individual research plan.
All researchers will be required to complete a Research Request Form (PDF) detailing their project and agree to all listed conditions of access. A one-page description of the proposed research must also be submitted along with the form.
Will you identify my object?
Our staff is able to answer questions and provide information on a time-available basis. For more details about identification and how to prepare to have something identified, see the Burke Museum Object Identification Request page.
I’d like to donate something. How do I go about doing that?
Does the Burke repatriate collections?
Yes, the Burke Museum works closely with tribes throughout the U.S., meeting the letter and spirit of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation act (NAGPRA). The Burke also works with other communities and countries to repatriate ancestors and sensitive artifacts. Learn more about Burke Museum Repatriation.
Can I become a volunteer?
We've compiled several online resources from outside of the Burke Museum that may also be of interest.
The Burke Museum stands on the lands of the Coast Salish Peoples, whose ancestors resided here since time immemorial. Many Indigenous peoples thrive in this place—alive and strong.
Support Contemporary Culture
Your gift makes it possible! We couldn't do what we do without generous donor support for collections care, research and public outreach.