The Museum of Natural History
What It Is
An historic architectural gem located on U-M’s central campus, the Museum of Natural History houses three floors of permanent and temporary exhibits ranging from Michigan wildlife, prehistoric life-which includes the largest dinosaur collection in Michigan, anthropology, geology and evolution. The museum entrance facing North University is flanked by two bronze pumas sculpted in 1940 by Carleton Watson Angell, an artist who worked at the museum for 30 years. Angell was also the sculptor of the bronze doors and numerous bas reliefs on the facades of this building. The museum’s grand rotunda has been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The University of Michigan's Natural History collections were established in the mid-19th century and became significant with the donation of over 60,000 specimens by a world-traveling alumnus, Joseph Beal Steere, in the 1870's.
The current museum building was completed in 1928. Since the 1920s, the Museum has subdivided into four separate research museums: the Museums of Paleontology, Zoology, and Anthropology, and the University Herbarium. The Museum of Natural History, devoted exclusively to the development of exhibits and educational programs, was officially created in 1956, although public displays had been offered for some 80 years at that point.
In 1958, a planetarium was added to the museum. Since then, the theatre has been updated with the latest digital technology to enhance viewer’s learning experience in the immersive environment.
Why You Should Know
The Hall of Evolution on the Museum's second floor houses Michigan's largest display of prehistoric life. Over 600 million years of life on Earth are traced through fossils, models, and dioramas. Here you can find dinosaurs, prehistoric whales, mastodons, and more.
The Michigan Wildlife Gallery on the third floor has a large collection of native Great Lakes birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, with taxidermy mounts, habitat scenes, and the largest mastodon trackway on display in the world. There are also displays about some of the environmental problems we face in this region today.
The Anthropology Displays on the fourth floor feature artifacts from human cultures around the world.
The Geology Displays on the fourth floor offer a large selection of rocks and minerals.
With free admission for individuals and groups of ten or less and events hosted both on and off site for children, adults and families, the museum is sure to have something to spark everyone’s interest. Popular children and family events include; ID Day, where visitors can bring their unknown fossils and plants to the museum to be identified by experts, the annual Family Halloween Party that combines trick-or-treating, education and fun in a safe environment and themed Discovery Days that explore topics such as water and dinosaurs with hands-on activities and discussions.
In addition to being open seven days a week, 357 days a year, the museum also has online exhibits available to the public on its website. Adults are also invited to attend museum-sponsored Science Cafes at Conor O'Neill's Traditional Irish Pub, located downtown Ann Arbor. Hosted by U-M scientists, Science Cafes are an informal opportunity for the public to meet to discuss topics like ecology and biology.