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The Burke Museum was founded in 1885 by the Young Naturalists, a group of curious teenagers inspired by seeing Seattle transform before their eyes. For 130 years, the Museum has built upon this legacy, collecting objects that help us understand how the Northwest has grown and changed.

The Burke Museum cares for and shares natural and cultural collections so all people can learn, be inspired, generate knowledge, feel joy, and heal.
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In December 1879, a group of teenagers watching Seattle transform before their eyes began to gather specimens and objects to document the world around them. They called themselves the Young Naturalists’ Society, and soon they began meeting weekly, organizing expeditions and holding lectures.

In 1885, the Society raised enough money for a small building to house their collection, and a museum was born. Located on the University of Washington’s original campus in downtown Seattle, the Hall of the Young Naturalists, as it was called, was the hub of natural history in the Pacific Northwest.

The Young Naturalists sought designation as the State Museum to ensure their collections would be a public resource for generations. Regardless of who you are or where you came from—whether your family just got here or has called this land home for millennia—this is your museum.

Over the years, the museum and the University became more and more entwined, as early professors become involved with the Young Naturalists’ Society and early members became University professors.

The Burke Museum stands on the lands of the Coast Salish Peoples, whose ancestors resided here since time immemorial. Many Indigenous peoples thrive in this place—alive and strong.