Founded in 1885 and designated the State Museum in 1899, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is the oldest public museum in Washington State. Located on the northwest corner of the University of Washington (UW) campus in Seattle, the Burke Museum occupies an unrivaled position in the natural and cultural landscape of the Pacific Northwest. The Burke Museum is home to over 18 million biological, geological, and cultural objects from Washington state and around the world, preserving natural and cultural history and continuously generating new discoveries.
In October 2019, the Burke opened its award-winning, new facility. The new Burke building, a $106 million public/private partnership, was funded by the State of Washington, UW, King County, City of Seattle, and the generous support of individual community members, foundations, and corporations.As part of the building’s design, the Burke’s curators and staff intentionally planned to demystify the research aspect of the museum by allowing patrons and visitors to see and gain access to diverse collections and specimens that would usually be hidden in storage areas. This innovative approach, which they call the “Inside-Out” model, is featured prominently in the stunning and spacious 113,000 sq. ft. building. Twelve visible, state-of-the-art labs, workshops, and an artists’ studio serve students and researchers, and large educational spaces have allowed the Burke to potentially double the number of K–12 students they serve each year.
The Burke provides innovative, immersive exhibits that showcase the interconnectedness of the natural and cultural worlds. The Burke has five principal galleries on three floors: Amazing Life (Biology), Culture is Living (Contemporary Culture), Fossils Uncovered (Paleontology), Northwest Native Art (Contemporary Culture), and Our Material World (Archaeology). The Burke also utilizes its collection to enhance a range of programs including high-quality, hands-on K-12 education, on-site learning (field trips, Girls in Science), off-site learning (Burke Boxes, BurkeMobile, and DIG Field School), and a wide variety of virtual and in-person informal learning opportunities. The Burke’s collections are an unparalleled global resource to advance new knowledge and understanding, and form the basis for a diverse array of research spanning cultural, biological, and paleobiological themes.
The Burke strives to offer a welcoming and accessible home for Washington State’s collections of natural history and cultural heritage and for the people who care about them. As a key institutional priority, the Burke utilizes decolonizing principles to guide its operations and programs at every level. The Burke staff and volunteers commit to patient, attentive relationship-building with Indigenous communities and other historically unheard and marginalized groups that invites and values multiple histories, perspectives, traditions, and contributions. As a public/private partnership, the Burke Museum works closely with two leadership boards: the Burke Museum Association and the Native American Advisory Board. The Burke Museum Association (BMA), a separate 501(c)(3), acts as the fundraising arm for the institution. The Native American Advisory Board provides advice and direction on many important areas including exhibits, collections, community outreach, repatriation, education, research, and collaborative relations with tribal and museum programs. The Burke’s deep commitment to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion energizes their efforts in achieving its goals and pursuing its mission.
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
Founded in 1861, the University of Washington is consistently rated one of the world’s top institutions of higher learning, ranked 8th of best global universities by U.S. News & World Report, and recently recognized by Reuters as one of the most innovative public universities in the world. In 2019, the University received $1.58 billion in total research awards, more than any other public university in the United States. UW has an annual budget of $8.25 billion and employs more than 4,300 faculty and nearly 27,000 staff. Located just four miles north of downtown Seattle, the main campus offers stunning views of snow-capped Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains, as well as nearby Lake Washington.
The next Executive Director of the Burke Museum will have an exciting and rewarding opportunity to help build the Burke’s next phase of unprecedented growth and impact. Despite revenue loss during the pandemic, the Burke remains financially strong and debt-free, with its building currently open and attracting over 130,000 new visitors so far. The Executive Director, a collaborative, transparent, and energetic museum executive, provides overall vision, leadership, and strategic direction for the Burke Museum as one of the nation’s best academic natural history and culture museums. This position reports directly to the Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington and serves as an essential member of the Dean’s executive leadership team. The Executive Director works closely with the Burke Museum Association on funding support and with the Native American Advisory Board on essential guidance and support on policy, programming, and advocacy. This leader is expected to build strong, beneficial relationships with the University of Washington and the State of Washington, including positive, productive engagements with UW university officials, state legislators, state public officials, and civic leaders.
The Executive Director leads a highly talented team of 184 museum professionals and directly oversees nine positions: Associate Director of Research and Collections, Director of Education, Director of Interpretation, Director of Development, Director of Communications, Director of Finance and Operations, Registrar, Tribal Liaison, and an Executive Assistant. The Executive Director oversees the management of a $16 million operating budget. The Executive Director must bring a deep, abiding commitment to inclusive practice and to decolonization in all engagement, while ensuring Burke’s strong commitment to excellence in research, collections, scholarship, and teaching. The Executive Director leads the Burke’s efforts to break down traditional museum barriers, opening the museum to regional, national, and global audiences to experience the Burke’s exciting and unique exhibits and programs. The Executive Director acts as the Burke’s primary advocate, fundraiser, and ambassador by advocating for the museum to the Washington State legislature, establishing partnerships with potential individual donors, foundations, and government agencies, and developing and implementing innovative strategies to further magnify the Burke’s growing brand and reputation.
Alongside a passionate, enthusiastic commitment to the vision and values of the Burke Museum, the ideal candidate will bring a minimum of seven to ten years of demonstrated senior-level leadership experience in building successful educational, science-based, and/or cultural institutions, including experience with earned revenue, fundraising, public education, strategic planning, program design, board relations, marketing, and communications. Experience with a public or private research institution would be a strong advantage. They will bring a proven ability to successfully develop, inspire, mentor, and lead large, diverse teams in an open, collaborative, and team-oriented approach. Strong cultural competence with a demonstrated commitment to decolonization and cultural equity will be critical. This leader should also possess proven success in building productive, long-term relationships; strong listening, communications, interpersonal, and motivational skills; and a strong record in fundraising, particularly major gift, foundation, and corporate funding.
The Burke Museum has retained Campbell & Company to conduct this search. A full position guide can be viewed here. To be considered for this opportunity, please send a letter of interest and resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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