From mastodon bones to special baskets used just for clamming, the Burke Museum houses vast numbers of objects from the natural and cultural world. There are so many pieces, in fact, that unless you’re with a curator, there are many items you might never have the opportunity to see. But that’s going to be changing when the Burke moves to a new building in 2019.
The clam basket used by the Suquamish Tribe was designed to work like a colander as it sifts out sand with its open weave. It’s one of 9,000 baskets in the Burke Museum’s collection, but most aren’t on display.
When the new museum opens, you’ll get to see them all. You’ll also get to see behind the scenes – the flexibility and size of the new space will make it possible to watch as people clean the old pieces and even weave new ones in the old style says Katie Bunn-Marcuse, curator of Northwest Native Art.
“The public sees the Burke just through our traditional galleries right now, and they don’t get a chance to see that the Burke is really a very active place,” she said. “These collections are not, you know, mothballed. They’re really actively being researched both in the cultural collections and in all of our scientific collections.”
Bunn-Marcuse says there’s knowledge living in those artifacts. They may no longer be functional pieces, but their role at the museum is to teach the next generations.