More than 13M U-M museum specimens moving to state-of-the-art facility | Arts & Culture

More than 13M U-M museum specimens moving to state-of-the-art facility

More than 13M U-M museum specimens moving to state-of-the-art facility

Young California quail collected in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1903. The specimens are part of the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology collection, which is being moved to a collections and research facility. Photo by Daryl Marshke/Michigan Photography.

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.

Janet Hinshaw, collection manager of the U-M Museum of Zoology’s bird division, and movers examine a drawer of bird specimens being prepared for the move to a renovated facility. Padding was placed in the drawers to prevent the specimens from shifting during the move, then each drawer was shrink-wrapped. Photo by Daryl Marshke/Michigan Photography.

Janet Hinshaw, collection manager of the U-M Museum of Zoology’s bird division, and movers examine a drawer of bird specimens being prepared for the move to a renovated facility. Padding was placed in the drawers to prevent the specimens from shifting during the move, then each drawer was shrink-wrapped. Photo by Daryl Marshke/Michigan Photography.

“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.
Museum worker Ash Boudrie holds a drawer of chinstrap, Fiordland and little penguins at the U-M Museum of Zoology. Photo by Daryl Marshke/Michigan Photography.

Museum worker Ash Boudrie holds a drawer of chinstrap, Fiordland and little penguins at the U-M Museum of Zoology. Photo by Daryl Marshke/Michigan Photography.

“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 300,000-square-foot BSB, scheduled for completion in 2018, will house the research laboratories, offices and classrooms of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Several EEB faculty members are also curators at the Museum of Zoology and the University Herbarium.

Dolphin skulls, vertebrae and other assorted bones at the U-M Museum of Zoology. Photo by Daryl Marshke/Michigan Photography.

Dolphin skulls, vertebrae and other assorted bones at the U-M Museum of Zoology. Photo by Daryl Marshke/Michigan Photography.

“A robust functional relationship will persist between the Varsity Drive museum complex and the Biological Sciences Building because curator faculty members will have their offices and labs at BSB but will do much of their museum work at Varsity Drive,” O’Foighil said.

The collections being moved to Varsity Drive include 8.2 million specimens from the Museum of Zoology, about 3 million artifacts from the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology and 2.2 million specimens from the Museum of Paleontology.

About 5 million specimens from the Museum of Zoology’s “wet collection”—animals preserved in jars of alcohol—were moved to Varsity Drive in 2012. The U-M Herbarium contains 1.75 million specimens.

“These collections are the result of the work of thousands of scientists for over one hundred years, and the move to Varsity Drive will allow us to preserve that legacy for generations to come,” said Andrew Martin, dean of the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.