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Project Fact Sheet

The Big One: Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest is a new, six-point project aimed at educating Northwest communities about the natural history of Washington and the potential hazards and methods of preparation for a major earthquake in our region.

This dynamic project will bring important scientific and safety messages to audiences across the region through a coordinated mix of exhibits, school programs, a visiting scientist program, and an interactive website. All components are designed to motivate the public to take earthquake risks seriously and to take basic steps to reduce the risks to their families, homes, and communities.

Traveling Exhibit

The heart of the Burke’s Earthquake project is a compact traveling exhibit that will travel to communities throughout Washington State and Western Oregon. Designed to appeal to a range of audiences, from high-schoolers to homeowners, the exhibit includes:

  • a free-standing panel exhibit which presents the geological processes that cause Northwest earthquakes, the ways earthquakes are detected and measured, the variety of hazards they present, and what we can do to prepare
  • takeaway informational brochures on topics such as home safety
  • hands-on interactive models that help explain the dynamics of plate movement and the effects of earthquakes on structures
  • study kits for use in school classrooms
  • a computer CD containing historic photos of past Washington earthquakes and additional information for exhibit visitors

Visiting Scientist

A Visiting Scientist program is available to communities hosting the traveling exhibit. Dr. Cathy Townsend, Senior Regional Geologist at the Burke Museum, will provide public lectures, visits to schools, and other educational outreach activities arranged by the host institution during a visit of 2-3 days. Dr. Townsend is an award-winning teacher and researcher with special interest in how the mountain systems of North America were formed. Her engaging presentations are designed to place recent earthquakes into the context of the fascinating geological history of the Pacific Northwest.

Burke Museum Exhibit

An expanded version of the traveling exhibit will open in the Burke’s temporary gallery on the anniversary of the 2001 Nisqually quake— Feb. 28, 2001. The exhibit will run through September 2, 2002. In addition to all of the elements from the traveling exhibit, it will include:

  • dramatic displays from the 2001 earthquake, including audio and video recordings, photos, and reconstructed scenes
  • a partially constructed house, where visitors can examine correct methods for strapping down a water heater, bolting a home to it’s foundation, and other important mitigation techniques
  • informaiton on current scientific research and what it’s telling us about earthquakes of the past, present, and future
  • a reading/study room with myriad resources to explore

Public Progroams

The Burke will host a variety of public programs to accompany the exhibit— science demonstrations, children’s activities, classes and workshops, lectures by leading scientists, special events for families and homeowners, and exhibit visits for schools and groups.

School Study Kits

Two traveling study kits— containing specimens, scientific instruments, books, videos, and lesson plans— will accompany the traveling exhibit and be available for use by local schools. Contents include successful education packages developed by other organizations and a new science curriculum created by the exhibit’s scientific curator. When the exhibit ends, these study kits will become part of the Burke’s permanent collection, the largest such resource in the Northwest.

Web Site

A specially-developed website, prepared by Burke scientists and educators and working in conjunction with the Burke Museum website, will allow users to learn more about how recent earthquakes relate to the geologic processes that have formed the Pacific Northwest. The website will launch in February, 2002, and will become a long-term addition to the Burke’s respected online educational resources.

Press Contact:

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

Planning your Visit
Locations and Dates
Visiting Scientist Tour

Sponsors and Collaborators


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