The Burke Museum’s current incarnation is relatively new — they re-opened last fall in a modern building with some wonderfully kid-friendly spaces and informative exhibits, and then along came the coronavirus. Just prior to the recent re-opening, we bought a membership because the location is relatively close to Julia’s preschool and we wanted to support another local organization that’s been hard hit by the pandemic.
We visited on a recent weekday afternoon to check out the new protocols. Reservations are required (even for members) and the hands-on exhibits have been temporarily closed with plenty of signs reminding folks to give each other space and wear masks.
I’ve wanted some more opportunities outside of books to teach my oldest (who is 4 years old) about the Native American peoples who made this land their home and the Burke was a great space for that. The entire first floor is dedicated to Indigenous culture. I felt they struck a nice balance between displaying beautiful artwork and tools from different groups to show their high level of skill and pride in their work, as well as discussing the horrific ways Native peoples have been forcibly removed from their homes and families. The exhibits aren’t just limited to the tribal nations from Washington State, such as the Coast Salish — they also include Pacific Islanders as well. On the top floor, we found more information about the traditional food gathering and fishing of the Native Americans, which I found really interesting. The museum has a board of Native American advisors and has consulted with other Native experts in curating its exhibits and I appreciated the Own Voices narrative.
The dinosaur and taxidermy sections were tougher to get through with young children – these are areas that normally include a lot of touching and they had more trouble paying attention without the tactile experience normally on offer.
The museum recently installed some beautiful bronze paddles designed by a Chinook tribal member that represent the arrival of a canoe carrying cultural heroes. It’s a great addition to the already lovely patio area and the kids spent almost as much time running around the paddles and climbing the stairs as they did in the museum.
Our visit inside the museum only lasted about an hour – my youngest mostly wanted to climb the steep stairs and touch things. To help extend a future visit, I might visit in the morning when he’s more fresh. I would also probably bring along some small dinosaurs or a book for my son and a scavenger hunt for my daughter to help give them something to hold while we learn.
Parking – Available directly in front of the museum. Download the PayByPhone app for touchless payment.
Tickets – Purchase timed tickets ahead of your visit for any guests over age 3. Prices range from $14-20 depending on age.
COVID Protocols – Make sure to bring masks for anyone over 2 years old and respect social distancing signs. Interactive exhibits are closed, so I recommend bringing a small toy or book of your own, especially for young children. Extra cleaning has been instituted and hand sanitizer is stationed throughout the museum.
Facilities – Non-gendered restrooms are available. While the Off the Rez café didn’t appear open during our visit, the posted hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday with space to eat in a large alcove or outside on the patio.
Have you visited any local museums yet? What’s on the top of your list once you feel comfortable visiting?