UW News

May 19, 2016

Burke Museum breaks ground on new building for Washington state museum

Burke Museum

People at a groundbreaking ceremony.

Scene from the groundbreaking ceremony for the New Burke.Burke Museum of History & Culture

More than 500 people gathered May 18 on the University of Washington campus to celebrate the start of construction on the New Burke Museum. The Burke is Washington’s oldest museum and since 1899 has been the State Museum of Natural History and Culture; soon it will be Washington’s newest museum.
Opening in 2019, the New Burke will address significant issues in the current structure that threaten the long-term viability of our state’s natural and cultural heritage collections — a total of more than 16 million objects. The new 113,000-square-foot building, located on the UW campus, will be 66 percent larger than the current building. State-of-the-art labs will serve more students, researchers and artists. Education space will allow the Burke to potentially double the number of pre-K and K-12 students served each year.

“The new facility with allow us to take science and cultural education to the next level by connecting students with the scientists and researchers at the Burke — role models who will inspire the next generation,” said Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, speaker of the state House of Representatives.  “Washington is a state of innovation and curiosity. It is only right that our state museum helps foster that in our young learners and in all of us.”

The New Burke will have an innovative “inside-out” design, integrating exhibits and learning areas with visible labs and collections throughout the museum, inviting everyone to uncover the depth and breadth of the museum’s collections and experience the thrill of discoveries generated at the Burke.

At the groundbreaking event, Washington educators, elected officials, tribal members and UW leaders spoke about the impact of the New Burke. Students from the University Temple Children’s School — located across the street from the site of the New Burke — joined project donors and officials for the ceremonial groundbreaking.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce congratulated the Burke on reaching this important milestone and thanked supporters of the project, adding, “We are very excited to break ground and look forward to working together with the community and the state Legislature to get the project finished.”

The budget for the New Burke project is $99 million, which includes design and construction of the new building, exhibits, moving costs, an operating endowment, and landscaping for the new facility. To date, $67 million in public and private support has been raised. The Burke will continue to raise private funds and will request $24.2 million from the State of Washington in 2017.

“The Burke is the State Natural History Museum. It’s the oldest state museum and we have an obligation, I believe, to create a new facility to protect our natural heritage,” said Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside.

“The Legislature worked closely with the UW to make this day happen and we are working together to get this project done,” said Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim.

Plans for the New Burke were developed over many years, in consultation with museum experts and members of the communities the Burke Museum serves.

In the coming years, the Burke will continue to consult with diverse community groups about the exhibits and education programs being developed for the New Burke.

“As we move forward, let’s remember all of the relationships and good work that happened here in the current building, and have that be the foundation of what happens in the new museum,” said Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe.

The current Burke Museum will be torn down after the New Burke opens, with farewell celebrations taking place in the current building in early 2019. Special exhibits, events and educational programs will continue in the current Burke throughout construction.

“I am thrilled to celebrate a major moment for the New Burke: breaking ground on the new, flagship museum of natural history and culture for Washington state,” said Julie Stein, Burke Museum executive director. “This project is a true partnership, and today is an opportunity for us to recognize the hard work and contributions of everyone who helped us reach this milestone. Together, we will bring the New Burke to life for everyone.”

The New Burke will open to the public in 2019.

More information available at newburke.org.