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$8M gift to fund new wing at Kelsey Museum


The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology has announced an $8 million gift from long-time donors Mary and Edwin Meader of Kalamazoo. The gift will fund fully the construction of a new exhibit wing on the 1891 Newberry Hall, enabling the University to display much more of its renowned collections from Egypt and the ancient Mediterranean.

The gift is the largest in the history of LSA, which operates the museum.

The Meaders have been supporters of U-M for more than 30 years, donating to the Chemistry Department, School of Music, Medical School and Hill Auditorium, among others. Mr. Meader is a 1933 graduate of the University and taught geography of the Middle East at both Wayne State and Western Michigan universities. Mrs. Meader (nee Upjohn) attended Smith College. Both families have a long history of association with U-M.

The Meaders' interest in the Kelsey stems from Mr. Meader's undergraduate days at U-M and his visit as a U.S. Army soldier in 1944 to the Kelsey's archaeological excavation site at Karanis in Egypt.

After World War II, Meader returned to Michigan and met with the then-director of the Kelsey, Professor Enoch Peterson. Peterson was intrigued by what Meader had seen at Karanis, and during the coming years the two shared an interest in archaeology.

In their travels around the world, the Meaders have visited a number of archaeological sites and museums. In 1938, Mrs. Meader participated in a three-month aerial tour from Capetown to Cairo in which she took more than 1,000 photos, some of which may provide background for an Egyptian exhibit at the Kelsey.

The Kelsey's collection comprises approximately 100,000 objects, 25,000 photographs and extensive excavation records of Mediterranean civilizations from 5000 B.C. to 900 A.D. Curators began collecting in the 1920s, and today fieldwork continues in Israel, Egypt and other sites.

The museum also is an academic center for several U-M departments, including Classical Studies, Near Eastern Studies and History of Art. Its Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology is ranked as one of the best graduate programs in the country. The Kelsey curators are University professors who draw on the museum's collections in their undergraduate and graduate teaching.

Since 1928 Newberry Hall—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—has been home to the Kelsey Museum.

The new exhibit wing, according to museum director Sharon Herbert, will be designed to modern museum standards with climate control, lighting and security systems. New galleries will allow more of the collections to be on display for the public and will allow curators and staff to create a greater number of imaginative exhibitions, Herbert says. Currently, only 1 percent of the collections are on exhibit.

The addition also will free up area in the original building for much-needed study space, Herbert says. Getting students exposure to exhibition preparation greatly complements their classroom instruction, Herbert says, and better prepares them for careers as curators themselves.

"The Meaders' gift addresses a 70-year-old problem we've had at the Kelsey: not enough exhibition space," Herbert says. "The curators and staff are ecstatic about the gift. The Meaders' generosity will enrich and sustain undergraduate and graduate research and learning at the Kelsey for generations to come."

LSA Dean Terrence J. McDonald says of the gift: "The importance of the Kelsey to the intellectual lifeblood of the University is great because museums are the places where theory meets practice—where archeological experts and their students can hold an artifact and come to understand volumes about a vanished civilization's art, religion or social structure."

McDonald notes that the Meaders' gift will underwrite the capital improvement of the Kelsey in its entirety.

"Almost since its beginning, the Kelsey has needed additional space," McDonald says. "The generosity of Mrs. and Mr. Meader will enable us to draw on private support to address this need."

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Depression Center receives $10M gift, will name building after Rachel Upjohn>

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