When the University of Michigan's Natural History Museum closed its doors in late 2017, it intended to reopen in the spring of 2019. Moving from the previous location in the Ruthven Museums Building to the new Biological Sciences Building, there was an expected hiatus of the ever-popular ID Day. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum was forced to delay its annual event once more.

Kira Berman, assistant director for education at the museum, was overjoyed to see the turnout for all ages grow beyond 2017. Over 700 residents showed up, artifacts in hand, ready to talk to U-M experts on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022. Residents were also treated to hands-on experiences with zoological specimens provided by EEB graduate students. In addition, scientists from all over campus came together to help identify found objects.

Patricia Torres, EEB graduate student, shows local family museum specimens.

Artifacts identified included geodes, teeth, petoskey stones, skulls, snails, snakes, feathers and plants. University experts from multiple departments came together to enrich this event with their proficient knowledge of museum collections including Anthropology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, U-M Herbarium, Paleontology and Zoology. Additionally, experts from Florida State University and the Michigan Archaeological Society attended the event to help identify artifacts. 

Hernán López-Fernández, associate chair for museum collections, associate curator of fishes and associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said, “I am really glad that ID Day went so well and that everyone was so enthusiastic about it. We will all be looking forward to continuing and expanding our collaboration with the team at the UMMNH.” 

Patricia Torres, EEB graduate student, was happy to interact and learn from the public. “They [residents] came with a fair amount of knowledge on the ecology or behavior of some of the species we displayed, so that made the path for some long and exciting conversations about these species.

Local resident getting a hands-on experience on ID Day.

Cody Thompson, assistant research scientist and Museum mammal collections manager, also thought the university's multiple museums coming together for this annual event was great to see. “Public engagement is an absolute must for scientists. Not only to share the findings of research and our knowledge but to cultivate the interests of the future generation of students.” 

The folks that made ID Day such a hit, the guests, continued to have this event on their minds. One Facebook commenter who attended the event thought it was awesome to see so many tables set up and experts ready to share! She was able to share a few rocks and crystals with the experts on this ID Day.

The Natural History Museum plans on holding the family-friendly event for many years to come, hoping to connect experts to the public, and objects to an identification.