During the 19th c., early in the museum's history, local farmers who were plowing up cultural artifacts, arrow heads and stone tools in their fields, began bringing them to the Museum at Michigan Agricultural College. This was the beginning of the MSU Museum’s holdings of cultural artifacts, now estimated at nearly 900,000 objects.
In 1952, the MSU Museum received the entire contents of the Chamberlain Museum, a local history museum in Three Oaks, Michigan. The donation included nearly 10,000 objects and became the foundation of a growing historical collection.
The History Division was founded shortly after that in the 1960s. The history collections and research programs have grown since then to include over 100,000 three dimensional objects, an archive of thousands of documents and photographs.
Special activities of the history curatorial staff include development of exhibitions and programs that feature Great Lakes agricultural heritage, Christmas customs, and the history of Michigan State University. These activities are carried out in partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, MSU Extension Service, MSU Department of Agricultural Engineering, Michigan Agricultural History Committee, Michigan Barn Preservation Network, and the Michigan Association of Fairs and Expositions.