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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee checks out a mammoth skeleton at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. (Jay Inslee via Twitter)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and other dignitaries got a helping hand from a troop of third-graders today when they cut a hand-woven cedar ribbon to mark this weekend’s opening of a spacious new home for the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

The students from University Temple Children’s School, just across the street from the museum site on a corner of the University of Washington’s Seattle campus, represented the next generation at the ribbon-cutting ceremony — just as they did at the New Burke’s groundbreaking ceremony three years ago.

“One, two, three,” Inslee counted, and then he cut the ribbon with a giant scissors that was also held by UW President Ana Marie Cauce. The kids snipped their classroom scissors at the same time.

Members of the Washington Legislature and Pacific Northwest native tribes were also on hand for the ribbon-cutting.

Today’s ceremony was part of a final members-only preview day for the $99 million, 113,000- square-foot building, which houses Washington state’s official collection of natural history specimens and cultural artifacts.

The New Burke replaces a 1960s-era building that even museum executives concede was run down and inadequate for their current needs. With 66 percent more space than the old Burke, the new museum has ample space to show off eye-catching fossils including a recently discovered T. rex skull and the skeletons of other prehistoric creatures.

There’s an extensive collection of items from Pacific Northwest tribes, including a 37-foot-long Kwakwaka’wakw raiding canoe. Other exhibits explain how naturalists do their work, and how species are classified. And the museum is structured so that visitors can watch experts work on specimens in their labs.

The New Burke opens to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday, and there’ll be a full day of performances as well as carving and weaving demonstrations in the museum’s Burke Yard. Check the Burke Museum’s website for ticket information and the schedule for opening weekend.

Photos: Take a look at the Burke’s old and new treasures

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