Friday, March 12, 2010

Field Trip - The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

The only reason to bother bringing your camera to the Burke Museum is to take pictures of the cool totem poles on the building grounds.

And this time of year the cherry trees are in full bloom and the "quad" on the University of Washington campus is spectacularly beautiful.

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There is actually some amazing stuff inside the museum but no photos are allowed flash or no flash.  For me that's really frustrating, not only because I like to share on my blog but I like to talk about them with my kids, they can use them to tell their dad things they learned and what highlights they saw. Since I'm on the subject of frustrating things there, parking is a problem. I would highly recommend the bus.  Not only is it hard to find a spot on campus but the pay structure is weird.  You pay $15 up front and they refund a portion of that when you leave, did I mention at least 15mins is required circling to find a parking spot? Lastly, I wouldn't take children to the bottom floor, besides being very formal there are some scary masks and things that could be the things nightmares are made of.

OK, now my frustrations with the place are out there, it does have merit.  Especially if you've got a dino lover.  My favourite exhibit for kids is permanent one - The Life and Times of Washington State. A lot of full-size dinosaur skeletons (stegosaurus, triceratops and more) and prehistoric skeletons (Woolly Mammoth/Mastodon, giant ground sloth, saber toothed tiger and more). There are also some real fossils that you can be hands on with and in the same room puzzles and activities related to dinosaurs.  Several years ago our playgroup organized a tour there and that was definitely the best way to see the museum and a docent helps the children stay interested in things.  There is a little section on volcanoes that has interesting back-lit pictures of lava, volcanic structure and world volcano locations.  My boys also loved a climb in replica of a cave, caused by a rhino being trapped in lava (found in Eastern WA).

A current fun traveling exhibit is called "Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway."  The kids liked the bright colours and style of the artist, they actually stood and looked at some paintings for several minutes.  Not just because of the cheeseburger hunt (count the number of hidden cheeseburgers in the exhibit). It did keep them occupied in an otherwise hand-off exhibit (something my boys always struggle with) and allowed me to really check out the art.

The museum has GREAT online resources! Field Guides, and a kids learning center with games and info.


chicklegirl said...

I have fond memories of the Burke from when I was a kid, so I took Jimmy and Audrey there about a year and a half ago and we were underwhelmed. There was no staff available to help us do the activities at the fossil exhibit and most of the other exhibits weren't younger-kid friendly--especially, as you pointed out, the cultural diversity exhibit on the lower level.

I don't know if the rules have changed since we were there in late 2008, but if cameras weren't allowed, I wasn't aware and snapped a few pix to help us remember the one fun place the kids loved--the rhino cast at the volcano exhibit.

chicklegirl said...

Oh, and ditto your complaints about scarce and expensive parking. I think the museum validated ours, but we had to pay $12 up front and then go back to get it refunded. What a pain.

Rainy Day Farm said...

What a pain for a field trip. Bad parking with kids is such a nightmare. I went to the Olympia hands on museum with the legislature was in session once. NIGHTMARE!!!!
Love the pic of the trees.

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Traci said...

Your boys seriously are the most cultured boys I know! It is awesome!

DanaB said...

you can take photos any where in the Museum now, unless other wise posted:)