Burke Museum Executive Director Dr. Julie K. Stein to Retire

Photo: Andrew Waits.
Photo: Andrew Waits.
January 13, 2022 | Andrea Godinez

After 16 years as Executive Director at the Burke Museum, Dr. Julie K. Stein will retire in March 2022. Thanks to Dr. Stein’s bold vision and dedicated leadership, the Burke Museum has truly transformed during her tenure.

Perhaps the most remarkable impact of Dr. Stein’s extensive career is the manifestation of the New Burke. Since becoming the Executive Director, she embarked on building a flagship museum of natural history and culture for the Northwest. It came to life in 2019 and is truly unlike any other museum by breaking down traditional museum barriers and inviting visitors to be part of a working museum through its visible collections, labs, and workrooms. Her remarkable achievement has inspired other museums to embrace the Burke’s “inside-out” model as they plan their own new buildings and updates.

“Every single decision that was made to build the New Burke was done with focus on flexibility for the future,” Dr. Stein said. “It was built so the space could adapt to the changing needs of our collections and exhibits. I can certainly attest that I’ll be retiring after a fulfilling career. And I’m confident that our next Executive Director will continue to build on this strong foundation, to advance the growing need for digital capabilities, to chart the course for the future, and to uphold the Burke’s mission to care for and share natural and cultural collections so all people can learn, be inspired, generate knowledge, feel joy, and heal.”

Dr. Stein’s expansive impact and career legacy goes even further. She’s a trailblazer with countless contributions to the fields of archaeology, museums, and teaching. Dr. Stein began her career in the 1980s as one of the few women geoarchaeologists in the world. Over the years, Dr. Stein’s mentorship of archaeologists, students, researchers, and museum professionals inspired many people—especially women balancing family and career. Raising infants of her own at a time when parental leave was not encouraged, Julie chose those pathways to ensure a family-friendly work environment at the Burke, supporting caregivers and new parents. 

“Julie’s deep understanding of human landscapes and how they form will always guide my understanding of archaeology,” said Dr. Amanda Taylor, archaeologist with Willamette Cultural Resources Associates and a graduate student of Dr. Stein while completing her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Washington. “As an advisor, she pushed me through graduate school with brilliant insights about landscape formation, warmth, and a great sense of humor. She prioritized not only strong research and fieldwork, but also scholarship that involved communication about our ideas and observations to the larger community.” 

In addition, Dr. Stein’s dedication to Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion work has been essential to the museum addressing its colonial history. As the Burke’s archaeology curator in the 1990s, she strengthened the role of the Native American Advisory Board and embraced the newly-passed Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)—collaborating with Indigenous communities on repatriations, including the transfer of The Ancient One to the Burke (to be held-in-trust) until the time when he could be returned to descendant Tribes. Throughout Dr. Stein’s tenure at the museum, she has constantly focused on relationships of respect, healing, and shifting the knowledge-holding from the museum to Native and Indigenous communities.

“Dr. Stein has shown great respect and commitment to the Indian Tribes of the Northwest during her tenure,” Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman said. “Building upon those early Burke collaborations initiated by many, including Bill Holm, Robin Wright and Jim Nason, she has shown a great understanding, compassion and knowledge of the local and regional tribal culture and history. This was not an easy task but Julie’s genuine desire to make the Burke an inspiration and a resource for the preservation and resurgence of tribal culture empowered her successful tenure as our leader.”

For those who would like to share any retirement messages or photos with Dr. Stein, please complete this form.

Dr. Gabriela Chavarria has been named the next Executive Director of the Burke Museum. Learn more about Dr. Chavarria here.

For media interested in interviews and high resolution images, contact burkepr@uw.edu