Burke Museum (Week Twenty-Two)
Not that long ago I visited the Henry Art Gallery because it was about two blocks closer than the Burke. Well, time to pay the piper.
I had heard of the Burke Museum but was never entirely sure what it contained. It was a single building on campus filled with dozens of buildings. In a place where libraries span several stories and this museum was made up of two, I was not expecting too much.
The first floor met those expectations. Again, there seems to be a second-person narrative to local exhibits. “Pacific Voices” tried to tell the story of all the people that had made their way to the area. They started with the Native Americans and tried to encompass everyone that had moved to the region, and their culture. It was quite the potpourri of people.
We are Peloponnese. We are Chinese. We are Europeans. I get it. We come from all over. If it is adjacent to water, odds are folks traveled across and ended up here. Native American artifacts were allotted the most room, but they tried to cram a dozen different worlds into one floor. It was like a sampler’s platter. A little from here, a display from there, with a dash of this place too.
My personal opinion is that I come to a museum for history. To me, history means old. So when the vast majority of artifacts are created within my lifetime, I remain underwhelmed. It felt like the display was created in the early two-thousands and that is why so many “relics” were from nineteen ninety-seven or later. There was an item here from eighteen hundred and an object there from early nineteen hundreds. I could see all the cultures, but I did not get a sense of history.
The entrance is on the second floor, so I made my way back up there. When I had entered, I did not see anything that blew my mind. “Life and Times of Washington State” was waiting for me. That sounded an awful lot like “Pacific Voices”. I thought I was in for a second serving of the “eh” display I had seen downstairs.
However, as I turned the corner, I was met with a display case full of fossils. They actually dug deep (pun intended) and retrieved these sea creatures from millennium ago. Finally, something with some history to it. I heard kids chattering and running around in the next room. I did not give it too much weight until I turned the corner. Then, my history-buff was rewarded.
Now we were firing on all cylinders. Displays of sabre-tooth tigers. Mastodons and woolly mammoths towering above me. Sea creatures. Ancient crystals. Stegosaurus and Compies close enough to touch. Aaaah. Bliss.
I thought I was over dinosaurs. I liked them as a kid. I never got the encyclopedia or memorized all the names, but I did okay. I had a few of those skeleton kits that you built after you sanded down each piece.
Apparently I still like seeing things bigger than me. I like being surrounded by a world that was wiped out before my ancestors came about. History, animals, and worlds that I cannot visit; this was what I wanted a museum to be. I may have even come to this exhibit with my elementary. I do not know. (Both floors are permanent exhibits. A new Burke Museum is being constructed on campus. I assume they will change/ add a few exhibits for that. Hopefully they will not change the dinosaurs. Unless “change” means, “feature lots more”.)
The kids ran around. I stood and smiled. That is my kind of museum experience. Well played, dinosaurs.
Sometimes it is best to visit a place with no idea what is in store. Then the things that do not speak to you can be a precursor to something that puts a smile on your face and makes the kid and you do a little dance. Plus, an unexpected display might just scare the crap out of you.