Arts & Life
The new Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture opens to the public fall, 2019 
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The new Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture opens to the public fall, 2019
Credit: photo courtesy Burke Museum

Moving the Burke’s entire collection is a dinosaur of a task

How do you move a museum?

Very carefully, and very slowly.

Museum experts are in the process of cataloging, packing and transporting millions of objects from the old Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus.

The ancient dinosaur bones, Native basketry, and other artifacts don’t have far to travel. The museum’s new home is less than a football field length away, just 500 feet or so across the parking lot.

Despite the short distance, workers like Molly Winslow are taking great pains to swath each item in layers of bubble wrap and special boxes to ensure they aren’t jostled in the short move.

“We’re making sure that we mitigate shock and vibration,” she says. “And we move nice and slow so nothing gets hurt.”

Many of the items have to be decontaminated before the move so they don’t bring unwanted pests into the new museum building. Some items, like the museum's 8,000 baskets, will spend more than a year “decompressing” before they are put on display.

“A lot of baskets were nested inside of other baskets,” Winslow explains. “They’re going to be in their own separate room where the temperature and humidity can be controlled especially for basketry materials.”

Burke curators and program managers started packing several months ago. They started to transfer the collection in earnest in August, a process that will take several months to complete.

The old building is open to the public until New Year’s Eve. Demolition is scheduled for April, 2019, and the brand new Burke Museum will open to the public in the fall.