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Temporary Exhibits

Object Lessons

Recollecting Museum Histories at Michigan

October 13 through December 30, 2017

Curated by Kerstin Barndt in collaboration with Richard Barnes and Amanda Krugliak, with original commissioned artwork by Richard Barnes

The history of the modern research university is unthinkable without collecting. At the University Michigan, the first objects brought to campus in the late 1830s included a piece of copper from the Upper Peninsula, bird skins, an Anishinaabe canoe and pressed plants. Today’s collections encompass over 25 million specimens and artifacts. As the last exhibition before the closing of the Natural History Museum in the Ruthven Museums Building, Object Lessons activates the memory of the museums building and richly illustrates the University of Michigan’s lasting effort to build collections in support of its academic mission and for the public.
Showcasing original objects dating from 1837 to the present, Object Lessons affords visitors a synthetic look at 200 years of collecting for science. Museum specimens, artifacts and documents from the archives bring into focus the University Museum’s importance to early state history, its first global collecting expeditions, the changing relationship between culture and nature, science and religion; and the transformation of research and collecting practices from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Not all of U-M’s historical collections survive; the exhibition reflects this fact by focusing also on the life cycle of collections, on points of origin and decline, and on the shifting valorization of objects over time.
Object Lessons draws on collections housed in the University's research museums (Paleontology, Zoology, and Anthropological Archeology), as well as the University Herbarium, the Museum of Natural History, the Stephen S. Clark Map Library, the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments, the Bentley Historical Library, and the University of Michigan Library. 
The exhibition features photography and sculpture by New York-based artist Richard Barnes that engages with specimens, taxidermy, and tools from the collection. Staging these images and sculpture in today’s campus museum spaces, Barnes offers an aesthetic reflection of the histories on display. A recipient of the Rome Prize, Barnes has had solo exhibitions of his work at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Carpenter Center at Harvard University, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Cranbrook Art Museum, among others.
Kerstin Barndt is Associate Professor of German and Museum Studies at the University of Michigan where she teaches European and US museum history and theory as well as twentieth and twenty-first century German literature and culture. Together with Carla Sinopoli, she co-edited the book Object Lessons and the Formation of Knowledge. The University of Michigan Museums, Libraries, and Collections 1817–2017
A visual and performance artist, Amanda Krugliak serves as the art curator at the U-M Institute for the Humanities. 
The Museum of Natural History is a partner for Object Lessons, providing institutional support and serving as the host of the exhibition in the rooms of the former Ruthven Museums Library.
The project has received generous funding from the University of Michigan’s Bicentennial Office, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, U-M Office of Research, MCubed, the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and the Museum of Natural History. 

Museum on the Move

Through December 30, 2017

The University of Michigan's Museum of Natural History will be moving into a new facility, opening in 2019. Come discover where we’ve come from and where we’re headed in ​this new exhibit about our past and future. View fascinating historic images and plans for the new museum, and revisit past exhibit favorites retrieved from our archives.

The U-M Museum of Natural History and affiliated research museums began with the creation of a Cabinet of Natural History in the late 1830s. Since then, we have inhabited three buildings and the style of our displays has changed from encyclopedic to interactive.

As we prepare to move to a fourth home in the Biological Science Building under construction next door, with new and exciting things to offer, it turns out a big move to a new museum isn’t quite as new and different as it seems. Our museum has been constantly on the move, shifting and changing throughout its 180-year existence.  

Bristle Mammoth Exhibit

November 5, 2016 through December 30, 2017

The mammoth remains found near Chelsea, Michigan, last fall will be on display at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History (UMMNH) beginning Saturday, November 5, 2016.

The Bristle Mammoth (pronounced BRIS-lee) is named for James and Melody Bristle, the farming family who found the remains on their property and donated them to the university.

Visitors will be able to touch one of the Bristle Mammoth’s bones, see some of the evidence for human activity at this site (such as the removal of edible tissues from parts of the carcass), and explore how the Bristle Mammoth’s bones, teeth and tusks will help scientists understand how these animals lived and why they went extinct.  Click here to learn more about the Bristle Mammoth.

The Bristle Mammoth exhibit will be on display from November 5, 2016 to December 31, 2017, when it will be moved to the Museum’s new location in the U-M Biological Science Building, opening in 2019. 

Extreme Time

Through December 30, 2017

Think you know all about time? What about things that happen in femtoseconds or eons? Time in the natural world is so extreme, you can’t even perceive most of its scale unaided. You’ll be amazed by the types of time you can explore in our new exhibit, and learn more about everyday time and how we measure it, too! The exhibit is open!