13M Museum Artifacts to be Consolidated in New $35M U-M Facility


More than 13 million museum specimens from the University of Michigan’s zoology, paleontology, and anthropology collections will move to a $35 million, 97,000-square-foot renovated facility.

The move to the Varsity Drive facility, a research museum complex that has been home to the university’s Herbarium since 2001, will take nearly two years.

“The unification of these biodiversity and cultural museums will facilitate cross-disciplinary interactions, with the potential for new academic directions and improved stewardship of our invaluable collections,” says Christopher Dick, director of the Herbarium.

The renovated facility features environmentally controlled collection space, with temperature and humidity conditions optimized for each collection; preparatory laboratories, research space, museum libraries, and offices; new archival metal specimen cabinets and compact storage for specimen and paper collections; and a demonstration room for teaching and public programs.

The main motive for the move is to rehouse the research collections of the four museums in a single location that is in compliance with modern safety and environmental standards, says Diarmaid O’Foighil, chair of the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

The collections being moved include 8.2 million specimens from the Museum of Zoology, about 3 million artifacts from the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, and 2.2 million specimens from the Museum of Paleontology.

About 5 million specimens from the Museum of Zoology’s wet collection — animals preserved in jars of alcohol — were moved to Varsity Drive in 2012. The U-M Herbarium contains 1.8 million specimens.

“These collections are the result of the work of thousands of scientists for over one 100 years, and the move to Varsity Drive will allow us to preserve that legacy for generations to come,” says Andrew Martin, dean of the university’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.