Photo: Olson Kundig
The New Burke will turn the idea
of a museum inside-out.
Opening 2019

In a dramatic departure from the typical natural history museum model—where exhibits are on one side of the wall and collections and research are on the other—exhibit galleries will be side-by- side with visible collections and labs and hands-on learning spaces. By bringing Burke collections and research out from behind the scenes and inviting you to bring your perspective—your passions—forward, the New Burke will be a place of active questions rather than final answers.

Design + Location

Northwest Roots

Designed by Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig, the New Burke combines dramatic views of objects with Northwest features like sustainable wood siding, a native plant garden, and a shed-style roof inspired by traditional Coast Salish dwellings.

A Nexus of Change

The New Burke will transform the northwest corner of UW campus, engaging directly with the community and welcoming visitors from the new U District light rail station, which is expected to serve 18,000—20,000 people per day. As a new tourist attraction, the New Burke will support efforts to revitalize the University District.

Visible collections and lab spaces
66% larger than current facility
1.5 blocks from future U District light rail station
The project is targeting LEED Gold certification.

Room for Growth

The new, 113,000 sq. ft. building will be 66% larger than the current facility. Collections storage will be climate-controlled and allow room for decompression and growth. Nearly 60% of the museum will be accessible or visible to visitors (compared to just over 30% today).

Next Level Education

Visible, state-of- the-art labs and an artists’ workshop will serve more students and researchers, and more education space will allow the Burke to potentially double the number of Pre-K–12 students served each year.

Timeline + Budget
MAY 2016
Construction on the New Burke Museum begins in May 2016 and will last approximately two years.
Following construction, we will move the millions of objects in the Burke collections and install exhibits.
FALL 2019
The New Burke will open to the public in 2019.


The New Burke is a true partnership. The project will be funded through investments from the State of Washington, the University of Washington, King County, the City of Seattle, private donors and foundations.

Gifts from the community are the heart of the New Burke project—more than one third of the new museum will be funded by individuals like you. Learn more about the Campaign for the New Burke.

New Burke Budget (000)
Construction & Exhibit Infrastructure
Exhibits, Furnishings & Equipment 6,000
Campaign (including In-Kind) 4,500
  Totals: 99,000  
Funding Sources (000)
State 54,000
Private Gifts 33,000
UW/Other Public Funding 10,000
In-Kind 2,000
  Totals: 99,000  
Project Details
Common Questions

Why not just remodel?

The Burke’s 16 million objects of local and global significance are severely compressed in spaces that lack environmental controls and put them at risk. Since the early 1990s, the Burke has tried to solve its serious building issues, exploring remodeling and expanding the current facility. However, it has become clear these options are either infeasible or the expense is disproportionate to the impact.

What will happen to the old building?

Once the New Burke is complete and all the objects have been moved to the new building, the existing museum will be demolished to make room for the new courtyard/parking area.

What about the trees?

We sincerely regret that the project required the removal of existing trees, some of which were exceptional. The landscape design for the New Burke calls for planting three new trees for every two trees removed. The UW’s wood recycling program turns felled trees into materials for new buildings. We hope to use some of this material for construction of the New Burke and outdoor exhibits. We also hope to make the wood available to artists if possible.

Will there be parking once the new museum is built?

After the New Burke Museum opens in fall 2019, a new University of Washington public parking lot and courtyard will be constructed in a portion of what is now the N1 parking lot.

Will (name object) still be on display in the new museum?

We are currently working with community groups and an exhibit design firm to determine the specific objects that will be in the New Burke exhibits.

How are you paying for this project?

The budget for the New Burke is $99 million, which includes design and construction of the building, exhibits, moving costs, an operating endowment, and landscaping for the new facility. The funding includes a combination of public and private support. Visit our Campaign page for more information.

Are you commissioning art for the New Burke?

Yes, the New Burke will include three new, large works of public art: a welcome figure in the grand lower lobby, a large graphic mural, and a piece of outdoor art supported by ArtsWA/Washington State Arts Commission's Art in Public Places program. Submissions for each piece were solicited via an open call for proposals, with artists/artist teams selected by panels composed of Burke staff and community advisers. 
Exhibit galleries in the New Burke will also feature several new pieces made by indigenous artists. 

What will happen to the paneling in the Burke Café?

The wood paneling in the existing Burke Museum Café is dated ca. 1720. The Boiserie set includes the panels, paintings and fireplace. Prior to demolition, the wood paneling will be de-installed by a qualified conservator. Some of the wood paneling will be displayed in the New Burke.

How will construction affect parking on UW campus?

During construction, the majority of the UW’s N1 parking lot (the lot adjacent to the current Burke) will be closed. Disability spaces near the Burke Museum and UW Law School will remain throughout the construction process, and drop-off access for school buses and visitors will remain available in the roundabout in front of the Burke.

How will construction affect the neighborhood?

While every construction site produces noise and dust, steps are being taken to minimize these impacts to our neighborhood. Construction will result in temporary disruptions to traffic on 15th Ave NE between NE 43rd St. and NE 45th St. for utility work and to allow construction vehicles to enter and exit the site. Pedestrian traffic will be rerouted during various phases of construction; uniformed officers will be present during active construction to direct pedestrians towards safe access routes.

When will the current Burke Museum close?

The Burke Museum’s current building will remain open to the public through the end of 2018. We will host goodbye celebrations for the current building leading up to the closure. The New Burke will open to the public in 2019.

How are you soliciting community input on the New Burke?

In 2010, the Burke began conducting formal outreach to solicit community input on the New Burke. This ongoing effort has included listening sessions, visitor surveys, evaluation, and consultation with subject-area experts, including Washington tribes and communities whose cultures are represented in the Burke collections.

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