Movers have begun hauling more than 13 million museum specimens from the University of Michigan's zoology, paleontology and anthropology collections to a state-of-the-art collections and research facility, a process that will take about 20 months.

The specimens are being moved to the university's research museums complex on Varsity Drive, about 5 miles south of the U-M central campus. The Varsity Drive facility has been home to the U-M Herbarium since 2001.

"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," said Herbarium Director Christopher Dick. "The enlarged facilities will also provide new spaces for specimen-based classroom activities.

All four units last shared a roof more than 70 years ago, when the herbarium was located in the Ruthven Museums Building, the current home for much of the zoology, paleontology and anthropology collections. The Ruthven building, named for a former U-M president and museums director, was completed in 1928.

The main reason 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, said Diarmaid O'Foighil, chair of the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Roughly $35 million has been spent over the past six years to renovate 97,000 square feet of space at the Varsity Drive facility and to pay for the collections move.

The renovated space 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.
  • A demonstration room for teaching and public programs.

"We are looking forward to inhabiting our new facility, as it provides ample space and the resources to conduct important research to document patterns of change in biodiversity through time and to understand the underlying causes of that change," said Priscilla Tucker, director of the U-M Museum of Zoology.

The move of the museum collections to Varsity Drive is happening while U-M's new Biological Sciences Building is under construction on a central-campus site adjacent to Ruthven. The $261 million biological sciences building will be the new home of the U-M Museum of Natural History and will be shared with two biology departments and the Museum of Paleontology.

Read fullĀ Michigan News press release