University of Michigan. Museum of Zoology.

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Established as an independent unit in 1913, the origins of the Museum of Zoology date to 1837 when a natural history collection was authorized.

During a trip around the world in the 1870s, Joseph Beal Steere amassed a large collection of zoological specimens. Zoology moved into the University Museum's building in 1928.

From the description of Museum of Zoology (University of Michigan) records, 1876-1999 (bulk 1910-1955 and 1975-1989) (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 82530358

The Museum of Zoology of the University of Michigan is a research and teaching unit organized for the study of the evolution, distribution, and systematic relationships of animals. It is one of four separate museums which together make up the University Museums (the official title for this assembly of natural history museums since 1928). The three other museums are the Museum of Paleontology, the Museum of Anthropology, and the Exhibit Museum. Along with the University Herbarium and a service unit these museums are all located in the Ruthven Museums Building on central campus.

Although an administratively separate institution since 1913, the Museum of Zoology is closely intertwined with the University Museums as a whole. Both trace their roots back to the establishment of the university as a state institution in 1837 when the Michigan Legislature authorized the purchase of a "cabinet of natural history." Through the mid-nineteenth century, donations of zoological specimens were received by the university from interested individuals and through a special arrangement with the Smithsonian Institution. At that time, it was difficult to find storage space for this material and specimens were frequently housed in attics and other less than ideal locations. In 1878, the president's report noted the danger of exposing "our rare and extensive scientific collections to the risk of destruction by fire for the lack of new fire-proof buildings."

Under the direction of Joseph Beal Steere (curator of the Museum of Natural History from 1876 to 1894), the museum moved to the first University Museum Building on State Street in 1881. Steere had obtained a large and impressive collection of zoological specimens from South America and the Far East during his trip around the world from 1870 to 1875 and this large accession provided the momentum for the erection of the new building designed by William Le Baron Jenney. At the same time, the Board of Regents adopted a new set of rules concerning university collections. In summary, the regents said that professors in charge of instruction in the various fields of natural history "shall be the curators of the corresponding collections in the Museum of Natural History." Problems with this arrangement proved to be twofold. First, while some professors (especially the zoologists) took an active interest in collection, others did not, resulting in the uneven development of collections. Second, while the president of the university was given general oversight of the relations of the museums to each other, no provision was made for a director of the Museum of Natural History.

These problems were finally addressed in 1913. As a result of the collecting priorities of Steere and his successors the museum had developed a strong zoological orientation while other collections languished. Acknowledging that fact, the regents, in 1913, changed the name of the Museum of Natural History to the Museum of Zoology and formally recognized the Museum of Zoology as a separate administrative unit. At the same time, Alexander Grant Ruthven, who had been curator of the museum since receiving his Ph.D. in zoology in 1906, became director of the museum. For Ruthven, the museum was an essential tool for deciphering the course and mechanisms of evolution and from his tenure forward, the primacy of zoological collection and research over the museum's exhibit functions was assured.

Between 1913 and 1927, the museum staff grew from 5 to 14, its collections more than quadrupled and six major divisions were created each with a full-time curator. In addition to the permanent staff, Ruthven was able to attract a group of influential amateur naturalists whose informal organization was known as the Detroit Naturalists Club or simply the Detroit Club. These amateurs not only contributed financially to the museum but several, such as Bryant Walker, William Newcomb, and E.B. Williamson, became nationally recognized authorities in various sub-fields of zoology as well as honorary curators of the museum. The tradition of collecting expeditions begun by Steere also continued during Ruthven's tenure with numerous new expeditions, especially to South America.

By the mid-1920s, the need for a new building was clearly recognized. In 1925, the Michigan legislature appropriated the funds and in 1928 the new University Museums Building (today, known as the Ruthven Museums Building) was opened. The new museum housed the Museum of Zoology, as well as the newly independent Museums of Anthropology and Paleontology, and the University Herbarium. Ruthven, who had actively collaborated with architect Albert Kahn in the design of the new building, became director of the University Museums as well as director of the Museum of Zoology.

In 1929, Ruthven resigned as director of the Museum of Zoology to become president of the university and Frederick Gaige was appointed the new director. Gaige had been associated with the museum since 1908. He had been curator of insects, a close collaborator with Ruthven, and assistant director. Gaige's wife (Helen Thompson Gaige) continued as curator of amphibians and soon assumed increasing responsibility for the direction of graduate instruction. During Gaige's directorship, the university accepted the gift of the Edwin S. George Reserve, in Pinkney, for zoological study (1930) and the museum continued to increase its holdings. In 1936, Ruthven also stepped down as director of the University Museums and, in 1944, the duties of director passed to an operating committee made up of the directors of the four individual museums.

In 1945, Frederick Gaige retired as director of the Museum of Zoology. Despite indications of some internal controversy over Gaige's leadership in the late 1930s, the museum maintained its teaching and research commitments during the difficult years of the depression and the war. In 1947, James Speed Rogers was appointed director of the Museum of Zoology. Rogers, an authority on craneflies and a former student of both Ruthven and Gaige returned to the University of Michigan from the University of Florida where he had been professor of biology since 1922. Many new collections were added during Rogers' tenure and the graduate program expanded.

Rogers died unexpectedly in 1955 and was succeeded in 1956 by Theodore H. Hubbell. One of Hubbell's early tasks was the resolution of a long-standing problem. In 1928, the regents had adopted a policy which allowed each museum to work out its own co-operative arrangement with the teaching departments in its particular discipline. In practice, teaching arrangements varied widely among the various museums and for individuals within specific museums. In 1956, an administrative reorganization required future appointments to be half-time in the museum and half-time in a teaching department. This change gave full professorial rank and teaching responsibilities to new museum appointees and to current staff who chose to request it.

In 1968, with Hubbell's retirement, Nelson G. Hairston became director of the Museum of Zoology. By 1972, the museum housed some seven million specimens. Today, the museum is recognized internationally especially for its extensive collection of North American fresh water fish and for its collection of insects. Researchers continue to come from around the world to examine these and other collections in the Museum of Zoology.

From the guide to the Museum of Zoology (University of Michigan) records, 1876-1999, 1910-1955, 1975-1999, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Hubbell, Theodore, 1897-1989. Theodore Hubbell papers, 1833-1988 (bulk 1852-1970). Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Edward Bruce Williamson papers, 1891-1950, 1899-1933 Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Williamson, Edward Bruce, 1878-1933. Edward Bruce Williamson papers, 1891-1950, bulk 1899-1933. Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf University of Michigan. Museum of Zoology. Museum of Zoology (University of Michigan) records, 1876-1981 (bulk 1910-1955). Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Van Tyne, Josselyn, 1902-1957. Josselyn Van Tyne papers, 1917-1957. Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Josselyn Van Tyne papers, 1917-1957 Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf University of Michigan. Museum of Zoology. Museum of Zoology (University of Michigan) records, 1876-1999 (bulk 1910-1955 and 1975-1989) Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Edwin S. George Reserve (Mich.) records, 1924-2013, 1941-1995 Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Museum of Zoology (University of Michigan) records, 1876-1999, 1910-1955, 1975-1999 Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Theodore H. Hubbell papers, 1833-1988, 1852-1970 Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Jacob Ellsworth Reighard Papers, 1887-1942, 1890-1920 Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Miller, Robert Rush, 1916-2003. Papers of Robert Rush Miller, 1947-1951. Libraries Australia
referencedIn Loveridge, Arthur, b. 1891. List of African reptiles in Loveridge Collection on 1.III.1924, 1924. Harvard University, Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology
referencedIn Reighard, Jacob, 1861-1942. Jacob Ellsworth Reighard papers, 1887-1942. Bentley Historical Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Edwin S. George Reserve (Mich.) corporateBody
associatedWith Gaige, Frederick M. person
associatedWith Gaige, Frederick M. person
associatedWith Hubbell, Theodore, 1897-1989. person
associatedWith Hubbell, Theodore, 1897-1989. person
associatedWith Loveridge, Arthur, b. 1891. person
associatedWith Miller, Robert Rush, 1916-2003. person
associatedWith Reighard, Jacob, 1861-1942. person
associatedWith Rogers, James Speed, 1892- person
associatedWith Ruthven, Alexander Grant, 1882-1971. person
associatedWith Steere, Joseph Beal, 1842-1940. person
associatedWith Van Tyne, Josselyn, 1902-1957. person
associatedWith Williamson, Edward Bruce, 1878-1933. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Edwin S. George Reserve (Mich.)

Corporate Body

Active 1876

Active 1999





Ark ID: w6p03bvh

SNAC ID: 54711451