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.

April 10, 2014

Object in focus: A mug made from a walrus

The journey from walrus to mug is actually shorter than you might think, as a few objects in the Burke's collection show.

First, the mug.

Photo credit: Richard Brown Photography
Object ID: Cat. No 1-2177
Gift of Lucille Christ

This mug was found in the mid-1950s when some children were digging in a backyard in Seattle's Laurelhurst neighborhood, but the mug probably originated in Alaska over 100 years ago.

Around the turn of the 20th century, mugs like this were made by Alaskan Native carvers to sell to tourists. This mug was most likely sold or traded to someone in Alaska who then brought it down the coast to Seattle. From there, the mug either got lost or thrown away and became buried.

After the mug was found, it was eventually donated to the Burke's archaeology collection, where it lives today.

But what about the walrus connection?

April 03, 2014

Creativity unearthered! Some favorites from the mammoth naming contest

UPDATED 4.14.14

We just couldn't wait to share a few gems from the mammoth naming contest even though our judges are still hard at work selecting the winning name.

All in all, over 1,000 entries came in! Once the judges make a decision, the winning name will be announced Friday, April 11, at 7 pm, on our Facebook page and the following Monday on (where you can also follow the tusk's progress and learn more about mammoths).

For now, here's a sampling...