September 26, 2014

Beautiful Things: Still Life Photographs Using Burke Specimens & Objects

When Dennis Wise and Malina Lopez wanted to use Burke Museum collections in their work, they weren’t interested in objects or specimens for the “usual” reasons.

Often, the people who use Burke collections are scientists and scholars. But for Wise and Lopez, a photographer and food stylist respectively, using Burke collections was all about getting creative and helping people see objects and specimens in new ways.

Natural history specimens make unexpected appearances in this beautiful series of still life
photographs. Keep reading for more images and the lists of specimens within them.

Photograph: Dennis Wise; styling: Malina Lopez

August 29, 2014

From Billions to None: Remembering the Passenger Pigeon

Passenger pigeons. 
Photo credit: The Birds of America,
J.B. Chevaller, 1840-1844, n39_21150,
CC-BY-NC-2.0, via Flickr.
They flew in vast flocks, numbering in the billions—the sound from their flapping wings was deafening. John James Audubon once described a flock as one mile wide and 240 miles long that darkened the dome of the sky for three days as it passed overhead.

The passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America. At the time European settlers arrived, passenger pigeons accounted for nearly forty percent of the land birds of North America, primarily east of the Rocky Mountains. In 1857, the Ohio State Legislature dismissed the idea of protection for the passenger pigeon, proclaiming, “it is here today and elsewhere tomorrow, and no ordinary destruction can lessen them.”

But on September 1, 1914, the last passenger pigeon on Earth perished. In less than a century, the great species had gone extinct.

August 11, 2014

Explore the past and present near San Juan Island's American Camp

For the past 20 years, Julie Stein, executive director of the Burke Museum and a professor of Archaeology at the University of Washington, has led walking tours on the southern edge of San Juan Island in Washington’s Strait of Juan de Fuca within the Salish Sea. The people who come on these tours are curious about one thing: stories of people and place. And on Julie’s tour, those stories extend back thousands of years.

This year marked what may be Julie’s last tour, but if you didn’t get to go on one, you can still draw on your powers of observation and curiosity—as well as this DIY (do-it-yourself) tour guide—to enjoy a rich investigation into the past and present of San Juan Island.

Julie Stein, executive director of the Burke Museum, has offered archaeology-based walking tours on San Juan Island for the past 20 years, but the premise of her tours can be readily adapted by anyone—it all starts with questions. Photo credit: John Howell, Cedar River Group

July 15, 2014

Scientific illustration: What's the point? Reflections on the craft's ongoing value

By Nora Sherwood

More than 400 years ago, European explorers were traveling to distant corners of the globe and discovering unfamiliar landscapes, people, animals and plants. In a time when travel was prohibitively expensive for all but the most wealthy and too difficult for all but the most adventurous or desperate, scientific illustrators created images of these far-off places to show the people at home what those explorers found. A mostly European audience with an appetite for learning about all things exotic eagerly beheld images of South American flowers and bugs, African large mammals and birds of the Far East. Scientific illustration brought the distant world nearer, providing visuals to further trigger the imagination.

“Sable (Martes zibellina)” from The Cruise of the Marchesa with maps and woodcuts drawn by J. Keulemans, C. Whymper and others, Second edition, 1889, The British Library

June 11, 2014

It's a new holiday! Burke Education makes one kid's dream come true

When 6-year old John, of Friday Harbor, Washington, was asked make up his own holiday, he let his imagination run wild—prehistoric wild.

Image excerpt courtesy of Scholastic Book Clubs, Inc.

May 31, 2014

7 good reads recommended by Burke staff

Tell us what you're reading this summer 
in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter
Photo: Simon CocksCreative Commons
Whether you're heading out on the road or hanging out in the sun, summer is a great time to explore new worlds through reading.

The following seven books are recommended by Burke staff for your summertime enjoyment—whether you like the prehistoric or present, natural history or culture—or all of it!

Be sure to check out the end of this post for museum-related offers for summertime readers.

May 18, 2014

Making connections through Burke collections

In honor of this year's International Museum Day, I sat down with one of our curators, Dr. Holly Barker, also a University of Washington (UW) anthropology professor, to talk about some of the connections she’s seen UW students make when she’s invited them into the Burke’s ethnology collections.

Tangible connections. Students in one of Holly’s independent
study groups making pump drills, an ancient tool that’s
being revitalized in today’s carving practices.