One of the artifacts from the Asia Range at Ruthven: a late 19th-century cuspidor from Jingdezhen in the Jiangxi providence, China.

From now until spring 2018, movers will carefully pack three million artifacts from the UMMAA (from both Ruthven and Kipke), load them onto trucks, and unpack them at their new home at the Research Museums Center (formerly called Varsity Drive) in south Ann Arbor. Keep track of the progress with our bimonthly updates. 

After nearly four months, all the artifacts in the Asia Range have been moved from Ruthven to the Research Museums Center (RMC). According to Lauren Fuka, collection manager, that’s an estimated 20,000 individual pieces, each one of which was individually wrapped.

Some of the last artifacts that Corrigan movers Josh and Sarah packed were from the Chinese Government Collection—a collection of items from China that was on exhibit at the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans in 1884–1885.

After the exhibition closed, China gave the collection (which included textiles, furniture, jewelry, ceramics, and other items) to the University of Michigan, thanks to the influence of James B. Angell, who was U.S. minister to China for a short time (1880–1881) during his tenure as University of Michigan president.

Movers are now working on the last collection of artifacts at Ruthven: the Great Lakes Range. This part of the move is expected to take six to seven weeks.

Collections manager Kerri Wilhelm and her crew are preparing for the full move of artifacts from Kipke to RMC. Part of this preparation includes moving some small groups of objects in advance of the large-scale move, which will begin in April 2017.

One such group is a collection of more than 900 pieces of handcrafted silver jewelry and other ornate items from Asia. These are now stored in a humidity-controlled room at RMC. Low humidity slows the chemical and physical deterioration of metal objects, explained Kerri.

Many students are part of the move team. At Kipke, they help with inventory and also build archival mounts for individual artifacts. In the photo below, a mount created by undergraduate student Nicholas Omichinski holds a Japanese takana and wooden scabbard.

“The mounts we create serve multiple purposes,” wrote Kerri in an email. “[They] stabilize the object for the physical move to the RMC and serve as long-term housing for the objects, to protect them from overhandling and rolling around in trays.”


This Japanese katana (sword), with its wooden scabbard, rests in a custom archival mount at Kipke. This artifact was collected between 1870 and 1875. The long curved blade has a rounded guard decorated with flowers and the leather hilt is wrapped in cloth ribbon.

Two silver artifacts collected in 1932–1933 in Himachal Pradesh, India, by Walter Koelz. Left: Repoussé silver mounting on a wood snuff bottle. Right: Repoussé silver mounting on a marble snuff bottle.

A silver repoussé brooch from the UMMAA Asian Ethnology & Material Culture Collection.

Sarah and the rest of the Corrigan moving team carefully wrapped all the artifacts in the Asia Range before packing and moving them from Ruthven to the Research Museums Center.