Thursday, June 29, 2017

Exploring the University of Michigan’s Museums

One of the best parts about living in Ann Arbor is visiting the various museums scattered around campus. Even better, the University of Michigan museums have free admission!

The UM Museum of Natural History, on 1109 Geddes Ave, is my personal favorite. It boasts a planetarium on the 4th floor, where you can listen to live star talks and see exploding stars and galaxies swirl overhead. You can also see what UM researchers are currently working on, like the Bristle mammoth discovered only 25 miles away in nearby Chelsea, Michigan. The 2nd floor has Michigan’s largest display of prehistoric artifacts, including huge dinosaur fossils and exhibits. There are free dinosaur tours and hands on demonstrations for children, though in my experience, even kids-at-heart are welcome to join in the fun!


The Museum of Natural History also has annual events like a Family Halloween Party in the fall, where everyone can wear costumes and enjoy themed activities. Earlier this year, I was able to participate in the annual Student Night, where the museum stays open late and you get to visit the exhibits at night, eat free pizza, and do a scavenger hunt – quite a unique experience.

If you are more into art and sculptures, check out the UM Museum of Art (UMMA), housed in a beautiful building on State St across from Michigan Union. On Sundays, you can choose to join a free guided tour of the exhibits, or just pick up a map from the lobby and explore the museum’s over 90,000 square feet of galleries. Highlights include a Rembrandt self-portrait, a Monet, Warhol prints, as well as a large collection of art from around the world.

The first floor of UMMA also houses a coffee shop and an area with tables that is a fantastic place to get some reading done or to meet up with a friend. The giant floor-to-ceiling windows also provide an opportunity to observe Ann Arbor’s seasons go by. You can also sign up for a free membership at UMMA and get invites to special exhibitions.

The Kelsey Museum of Archeology, across the street from UMMA, houses 10,000 artifacts, mostly from UM-sponsored excavations in Egypt and the Near East. This includes an extensive collection of ancient coins, pottery, and a beautifully-preserved Egyptian sarcophagus. There is also a small gift shop near the entrance where you can purchase mementoes inspired by the museum’s collections.

And we’re not even close to done with the museums that UM has to offer! There’s the Museum of Dentistry on N. University, devoted to exhibiting the history of dentistry. The Detroit Observatory, which despite its name, is right here in Ann Arbor, preserves the original astronomical instruments from 1894, which are all still operational. The Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments consists of over 2,500 historical and contemporary musical instruments. The Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum have conservatories, gardens, and greenhouses.

Ann Arbor’s museums have a lot to offer and are very accessible. You can just pop over to one during your lunch break or between classes. So go ahead and explore UM’s museums!

Written by Gail Lucasan
International Center Summer Orientation Peer Adviser
Country of Origin: Philippines
Ph.D. student in Economics

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