Ancient instruments? Mastodons? These 12 University of Michigan museums have it all

ANN ARBOR, MI – Michigan’s state motto translates to, “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”

Replace peninsula with museums, and that pretty well describes the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

There are 12 museums across campus, ranging from natural history to archeology to ancient dentistry to historical musical instruments. If you count UM’s many libraries, the number of historical artifacts is even bigger.

Read more: Check out 10 rare, fascinating artifacts at the University of Michigan’s Clements Library

Here is a list of museums you can enjoy on your next trip to campus.

Planetarium Manager Matt Linke poses in the planetarium within the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History in the Biological Sciences Building, 1105 N. University Ave. in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.Jacob Hamilton | The Ann Arbor News

Exhibit Museum of Natural History

Located at 1105 N. University Ave. in the Biological Sciences Building, this museum is perhaps best known for its giant skeletons of ancient mastodons, dinosaurs and other prehistoric life.

Open 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday from September to April, the museum consists of four major permanent exhibits. This includes the fossils in the Hall of Evolution, a gallery of Michigan wildlife, ancient artifacts from human cultures around the world and geology presentations of rocks and minerals.

In addition, the museum has a planetarium that has been updated with state-of-the-art video projection technology since 2007.

Read more: Mastodon mecca? University of Michigan study tracks animal’s mating, migration cycles

Stones UM Childhood Exhibit AW

Grave stones for a family (top) and a little girl (on bottom) on exhibit at the Archaeologies of Childhood, the First Years of Life in Roman Egypt. The exhibit is at the University of Michigan’s Kelsey Museum of Archeology in Ann Arbor.MLive file photo

Kelsey Museum of Archeology

Located at 454 S. State St., the Kelsey Museum holds tens of thousands of prehistoric to medieval artifacts and art from ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece and the Near East.

Open from 9 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 4 pm Saturday and Sunday, the museum also contains the largest collection of Greco-Roman Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo, according to its website. There is also a large collection of Egyptian mummy masks and stones upon stones of Latin inscriptions amazingly found in North America.


Since 1837, University of Michigan researchers have been bolstering the university’s plant and fungus population to the tune of 1.7 million specimens in its Herbarium.

Located in the Research Museums Center at 3600 Varsity Drive, the herbarium allows visitors on request only. To make an appointment to see specimens, you must contact one of the staff members through the website at

The millions of specimens originated from areas across Michigan, the Great Lakes and even the world. The collections help researchers learn more about how plant ecosystems work, where they grow and how they evolved over millions of years.

University of Michigan campus

Rackham Auditorium, 915 Washington St. on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020.Jacob Hamilton/

Museum of Anthropology

Located in the School of Education Building, 610 E. University Ave., the Museum of Anthropology just celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Anthropology is the study of humanity’s past, so curators and researchers have filled the museum with artifacts speaking to the emergence of human culture in the Paleolithic era to the rise and expansion of civilizations in the New and Old World.

There are 3 million artifacts, specimens and documents in the museum ranging from the Great Lakes, North America, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

The museum welcomes researchers, classes and members of the public by appointment. You can contact the office at 734-764-0485 or by emailing

UM Museum of Natural History Tour

A male mastodon fossil greets visitors in the atrium of the University of Michigan’s Museum of National History at the Biological Sciences building in Ann Arbor Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.Jacob Hamilton

Museum of Paleontology

This museum is linked to the Museum of Natural History, as both are located in the Ruthven Museum Building and UM’s Cabinet of Natural History organized the university’s paleontology work into a museum in 1882.

However, it is a research museum that is not open to the public. There are paleontology specimens that are on display in the Museum of Natural History which are free and open to the public.

The museum contains fossils acquired on Isle Royale in Northern Michigan in the 1800s, as well as other fossils of plants and animals used for hands-on education on the environmental, ecological and paleogeographical conditions in which these creatures lived.

U.M. Zoology

William Fink, professor and curator director of the Museum of Zoology, opens one of the jars containing a rattlesnake preserved in ethyl alcohol in the herpetology wet collection of the zoology department at the Alexander G. Ruthvens Museums Building Friday. ANN ARBOR NEWSMLive file photo

Museum of Zoology

Located in the Research Museums Center on Varsity Drive, these collections study animal diversity across the planet. This includes the study of evolutionary origins, genetic information these species contain and ecosystems they form.

The museum’s six divisions are mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, fishes, insects and other arthropods and mollusks. The collection consists of 15 million specimens, including 4-6 million insects, more than 5 million mollusks, more than 3 million fishes, about 350,000 amphibians and reptiles, about 200,000 birds and about 130,000 mammals.

The Museum of Zoology is another research museum that is typically not open to the public. Those interested in viewing specimens are asked to refer to the Museum of Natural History website at

University of Michigan Campus

“Behind the Walls” by Jaume Plensa stands outside the University of Michigan Museum of Art, 525 S. State St. on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.Jacob Hamilton/

University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA)

This art complex, just renovated with a $41.9-million expansion and restoration of its Alumni Memorial Hall, contains more than 18,000 works of art.

The museum, 525 S. State St., is open and free to the public from 11 am to 5 pm Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 am to 8 pm Thursday and Friday and 11 am to 8 pm Saturday and Sunday.

Current exhibitions include a collection of Chinese ceramic art, an exploration of African history through sculptures, the “Watershed” collection that tells stories of the Great Lakes region and more. See what exhibitions are available here.

Read more: Great Lakes beauty, Flint Water Crisis shown in University of Michigan art exhibit

Peonies bloom in 2022 at Nichols Arboretum

Peonies bloom at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, June 1 2022.Jacob Hamilton | The Ann Arbor News

Mattheai Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum

These outdoor museums are perhaps best known for the peony garden that blooms every spring, but there is much more to explore.

The outdoor trails and nature area of ​​both the Nichols Arboretum (or the Arb) and the botanical gardens, open from sunrise to sunset to the public for free, include nearly 800 acres of gardens, natural preserves, plants, trees and more just alongside the Huron River.

The Botanical Gardens also has a conservancy and display gardens available to the public for free from 10 am to 4:30 pm Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday and 10 am to 8 pm Wednesday.

The botanical gardens include bonsai trees, plants from across the Great Lakes region, herb knots, perennials, wildflowers, medicinal plants and more.

Readmore: 100 years in bloom: Peony garden’s historic anniversary comes with multiple events

cultural travel

Deco Period Dental Operatory at the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.MLive file photo

Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry

Located inside the School of Dentistry, 1011 N. University Ave., this museum details the history of the dental profession.

There are more than 10,000 objects that show how dentistry worked as far back as the 18th century.

Directions to get to the museum can be found here. It is open to the public for free from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.

Funny buildings around UM

Detroit Observatory in Ann Arbor at 1398 E Ann St. on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.Alyte Katilius |

Detroit Observatory

This observatory is one of the oldest on campus, as it was built through former UM President Henry Tappan’s vision to transform the university into a research institution.

Today at its 1398 E. Ann St. location, it is still home to the original astronomical instruments such as a 6-inch Pistor & Martins meridian circle and the refracting telescopes once seen as the largest in the world. The distinctive dome is turned manually by pulling a continuous rope.

It is open and available to the public for free through events, tours and visits. The walk-in visits occur from noon to 5 pm on Friday. Scheduled events require prior registration and can be found at

Readmore: The Cube? TheRock? Nah. Here are 10 even more unique University of Michigan landmarks

Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments

The Stearns Collection on North Campus holds more than 2,500 pieces of historical instruments and is operated through the School of Music at University of Michigan. Photo provided by University of Michigan.University of Michigan

Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments

Funded by a gift by Frederick Stearns in 1899, UM’s collection of historic musical instruments is now in excess of 2,500 pieces.

It operates through the Earl Moore Building of the School of Music, 1100 Baits Drive on North Campus. The collection contains instruments from cultures on six different continents.

The instruments are available only to scholars and performers.

Virtual Museum

The Virtual Museum is a project that creates a virtual collection that details the history of information technology at UM.

It is an effort to show how IT has innovated over the years both internationally and nationally. The goal of the project is to remind and teach the public of this history and commemorate the technological advancements.

As it is not a physical museum, the way to learn more is on its website at, by calling 734-647-5276 or emailing

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