Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

434 S State St Ann Arbor

Best Museums in Ann Arbor/Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
Written By VAMONDE Ann Arbor

Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is a museum of archaeology located on the University of Michigan central campus and is a unit of the University's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. It has a collection of more than 100,000 ancient and medieval artifacts from the civilizations of the Mediterranean and the Near East. In addition to displaying its permanent and special exhibitions, the museum sponsors research and fieldwork and conducts educational programs for the public and for schoolchildren. The museum also houses the University of Michigan Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology.


The history of the museum begins before the museum was established. The founder of the university's collection of artifacts was Francis Kelsey, a professor of Latin at the University of Michigan from 1889 until his death in 1927. Kelsey began acquiring artifacts in 1893 in order to help his students understand the ancient world.

In 1924, Kelsey secured funding for excavations at sites around the Mediterranean and began to ship a large number of artifacts back to Ann Arbor. That year he sent almost 45,000 object from Karanis that illustrate life in Egypt during Rome's rule. In 1925, Kelsey commissioned the Italian artist Maria Barosso to paint a set of watercolor replicas of the murals of the Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii, which now are housed in a special room in the Upjohn Exhibit Wing.

The building that now houses the museum was originally built for the Students' Christian Association for religious services and other meetings and activities. The building has a hip roof broken by parapeted cross-gable. It was named Newberry Hall, in honor of railroad magnate John S. Newberry, and dedicated on July 21, 2891. Newberry's widow contributed $18,000 for the building's construction.

The Museum Today

In 2009, the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing was completed, adding more than 20,000 feet of study, storage, and display space in a climate-controlled facility; the new space allowed the museum, which previously had been displaying less than 1 percent of its collection, to dramatically expand the number of artifacts on public display. The wing was named after Mary Meader's grandfather William E. Upjohn, the noted pharmacist.

The collection includes ancient Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Coptic, Persian, and Islamic archaeological artifacts. In addition to its more than 100,000 artifacts, the collection is also home to some rare objects important to the study of archaeology, excavation records, and an archive of 25,000 archaeological and fine arts photographs. The Kelsey Museum has conducted fieldwork for over 80 years.

Cover image by Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. Information courtesy of Wikipedia.

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