The Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor provides students at the University of Michigan and the public a look inside the Natural Sciences research conducted at the school from prehistoric life through present day through educational programming and exhibits.
Joseph Beal Steere, alumni of the University and world traveler, donated 60,000 specimens to the university in 1870 and thus began the Natural History Collection at the University of Michigan. The current museum building was constructed in 1928 while the Museum was exclusively devoted to exhibit development and educational programs it was not officially created until 1956, even though public displays had been available for a century. The museum was named “Exhibit Museum of Natural History” until 2011, when the current name was incorporated.
The museum welcomes over 150,000 visitors each year including nearly 20,000 school children. The Museum is open 7 days a week and closed on major holidays. Admission is always free to all visitors to the galleries. The museum is 19,000 square feet and shares space with three other research museums on campus.
The Museum of Natural History holds the most extensive collection of prehistoric life in the state. The first three floors of the museum are dedicated to permanent exhibits with 17,000 square feet of galleries while the fourth flour is reserved for temporary exhibitions.
The Hall of Evolution- These galleries are where guests will see the largest prehistoric display in the state while journeying through the history of life on earth. Visitors are immersed in evolution through dioramas, fossils, and models of dinosaurs, whales and other prehistoric creatures.
The Michigan Wildlife Gallery- This space holds records for the largest collections in many fields from the largest mastodon trackway in the world to taxidermy mounts, habitats and many other displays. All specimens in this gallery are or were once native to Michigan and the Great Lakes.
The Geology Displays- Visitors are immersed in color and wonder in the space where rocks and minerals are displayed.
The Anthropology Galleries- University of Michigan archaeological research is featured in these halls where visitors can view artifacts from cultures all over the world.
Butterfly and Pollinator Garden- This garden provides for all four stages of a butterfly’s life from egg to adult. The garden is full of nectar rich flowers that butterflies thrive on. Planted in the spring of 2004, the garden is now cultivated by Mary Duff-Silverman and dedicated volunteer group.
The Planetarium is not included in the free general admission to the museum. Planetarium shows are ticketed with the show schedule and details available on the UM Museum of Natural History website.
The planetarium was established in 1958 and always provided public and community group tours while also serving as a classroom space for astronomy classes at the university. Many rennovations have been completed in the last two decades including the replacement of all original analog instruments. The canvas dome is now equipped with all-dome projection equipment.
The Planetarium offers programming for school groups. These programs are divided by grade levels and include live and prerecorded shows and programs with time for students to ask questions to the astronomers. Full dome experiences are also offered which allow students to explore different environments through full dome movies. Most programs are 45 minutes in length.
There are many events that happen throughout the week at the Museum of Natural History. Special events at the Museum are developed to immerse the community in Natural Sciences in fun and engaging learning environments. There are many annual programs and events, with other events detailed on the website events calendar.
Science Spotlight Days- University scientists invite visitors to participate in their research on the second floor of the museum. Participants will be able to do experiments and engage in many other hands on activities. These events are free for the public with no advance registration required. Dates can be found online.
Science Cafes- Discussions on current scientific topics and news events are held at Conor ONeill’s Traditional Irish Pub in Ann Arbor. Appetizers are available before the hour and a half long program lead by experts from the museum.
Family Fun Night- This annual night allows visitors to stay late at the museum and experience hands on exploration and activities for the entire family.
ID Day- Anyone can come to the museum today with the weird rocks from their backyard or arrow heads they found on vacation and have them identified by field experts. Appraisals are not given but other collections are on display.
Family Halloween Party- This annual party at the museum is one of the most popular Halloween related activities in the community. Visitors are engaged in hands on activities related to science and Halloween. This is a program for all ages.
Butterfly Festival- This event happens every spring and allows visitors to encounter butterflies in an enclosed habitat. Monarch butterflies are the focus on the festival and visitors each get to make and take their own set of butterfly wings.
Ruthven Museums Building, 1109 Geddes avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48109, Phone: 734-764-0478