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Museum readies new home for age-old treasures

Burke Museum
The New Burke Museum is at the corner of Northeast 43rd Street and 15th Avenue Northeast, on the western edge of the University of Washington’s main campus in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

After a three-year, $99 million construction effort, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is putting the finishing touches on a new home that shows off old favorites and a brand-new centerpiece for the ages: a 66 million-year-old T. rex skull that museum volunteers discovered in Montana in 2015.

“That skull is completely prepared and mounted — and the scariest thing I’ve ever seen,” the museum’s executive director, Julie Stein, told GeekWire.

But that’s not all: There’ll be other treasures on display, both scary and soulful.

The skeletons of a mastodon and a beaked whale, plus a gleaming glass monument done up in Coast Salish style, will greet visitors when they enter through the lower-level lobby.

Museumgoers will be able to nosh on frybread tacos at the Off the Rez Cafe. They can feast their eyes on totem poles and other artifacts from Northwest tribes. And they’ll have the chance to reacquaint themselves with their favorite items from the old Burke Museum building, which has now been replaced by a parking lot.

Stein, whose new office isn’t far from the T. rex, doesn’t miss the old place at all.

“The old building was very difficult to live in. It was the lack of air conditioning and the lack of humidity control. The facility was falling apart. The restrooms were inadequate,” she recalled.

“Inviting the public into a place that was shabby was disheartening,” she said.

In contrast, Stein is excited about the opening of the New Burke, which was built right next to the old museum site, on the western edge of the University of Washington’s campus.

“I just can’t wait for the visitors to come,” Stein said.

Get the full story and photos on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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