Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

U-M’s museum theme year brings together art, science, culture, community

By Maryanne George
LSA Communications

Rare Egyptian mummy masks, watercolor paintings of ancient Roman frescoes and a spectacular Tiffany chandelier are just some of the treasures on display at U-M’s 12 museums during the 2009-10 theme year, “Meaningful Objects: Museums in the Academy.”

Sponsored by LSA, the theme year celebrates the contributions of the university’s museums to the intellectual, cultural and social life at U-M and in southeastern Michigan. Most of the events are free and many are open to the public.

The theme year gives students, faculty and community members a chance to discover the world-class collections at the university’s museums, galleries and gardens while exploring the importance of museums worldwide. With the re-opening last spring of the U-M Museum of Art and in November the Kelsey Museum of Archeology, patrons will also be able see objects in the new galleries that have been in storage for decades. 

Through courses, public lectures, tours, exhibits and other events, the theme year explores the cultural richness and unique potentials of university museums as sites of critical reflection, cultural engagement, innovative research, life-long learning and personal fulfillment, says Carla Sinopoli, professor of anthropology, director and curator of Asian archaeology of the Museum of Anthropology and chair of the theme year.

 “The spectacular new public gathering spaces and exhibitions at the Museum of Art and Kelsey Museum and the educational and family-oriented exhibitions and events at the Exhibit Museum of Natural History bring the university and the community together in unique and valuable ways,” Sinopoli says.

“Our research museums, with their large natural science, anthropological and archaeological collections are centers of cutting edge research and give students opportunities for hands-on engagement with the evidence scholars use to understand our planet and our past, she said. “We look forward to re-introducing the community to museums they know already and showing them ones they have yet to discover.”

Highlights include:

• The U-M Museum of Art, the Institute for Humanities Gallery, and the Cranbrook Museum of Art and Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills will present coordinated exhibits of museum-themed images by photographer Richard Barnes from Saturday-Jan. 3.

• The Gaffield Children's Garden grand opening at the Matthaei Botanical Garden featuring a butterfly garden, fairy and troll knoll, water play area, builder’s garden, and more will be from 1-4 p.m. Sunday.

• The Kelsey Museum of Archeology will open its new William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing on Nov. 1, with a public reception from 2-5 p.m.

• The Exhibit Museum of Natural History will feature two new exhibits, both opening on Sept. 25.  “Collecting for Science,” through May 31, will highlight the collections and scientific contributions of the research museums of anthropology, paleontology and zoology, and the Herbarium. Ongoing exhibit “Archaeology!” will highlight U-M archaeological research around the globe. 

• Behind the Scenes Days: Research areas in many U-M museums, archives and libraries normally closed to the public, will be open from 5-8 p.m. Oct. 9 and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 10.
• Lecture Series: Four free public lecture series will address the challenges and potentials of 21st century museums.

 • The Wednesday Night Museums series: Rick West, founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, will deliver the kick-off lecture on at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30 in the Helmut Stern Auditorium in the Museum of Art.

• The final two lecture series highlight U-M museum professionals, providing overviews of museum careers in "A Day at the Museum" and the challenges of conserving our precious cultural and natural heritage in "Conservation Detectives."

For more information go to