$2M gift from Forest Akers Trust will fund visionary project at MSU Museum

The MSU Museum is the benefactor of a transformative gift of $2 million from the Forest Akers Trust, a major step forward in reimagining how the museum engages with its communities and educates future generations.

The generous investment will be used to construct and equip two groundbreaking spaces within the museum — an Immersive Lab and an Exhibit Lab — both set to transform the way Michigan State University students and visitors interact with the museum’s extensive collection of over 1 million objects.

“MSU and its museum collections began together,” said MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. “From those early days until the present, objects and specimens have catalyzed teaching and learning, inside MSU and for all Michiganders. Through the vision and generosity of the Forest Akers Trust, our MSU Museum will continue to create content that drives curiosity in the world and collaboration among students and faculty. Investment in one of our few buildings in the Sacred Circle also ensures the physical continuity of our past long into our future.”

In a departure from conventional museum learning experiences, these new labs will empower university students to take a hands-on approach to exhibition creation and visitor engagement. The Immersive Lab and Exhibit Lab will serve as experimental spaces, providing students with the unique opportunity to co-create exhibits and design immersive visitor experiences. This initiative places students at the heart of the museum’s educational mission, fostering a collaborative and innovative learning environment.

“These two innovative labs will expand learning opportunities and experiences for all MSU students across a broad range of collections and holdings while supporting new accessibility technologies for learners of all ages and physical abilities so they can engage with exhibits,” said MSU Interim Provost Thomas Jeitschko. “It is a time of great momentum for University Arts and Collections, led by Vice Provost Judith Stoddart, and we are grateful for the Forest Akers Trust’s generous investment in expanding and enhancing the educational power of the MSU Museum.”

The funding from the Forest Akers Trust will be instrumental in redesigning these spaces and ensuring they are equipped with state-of-the-art fittings that allow for maximum flexibility in exhibition design and changing learning opportunities. The trust’s commitment to innovation and education will help the MSU Museum remain at the forefront of museum practice, creating spaces that are as dynamic and diverse as the collections housed in the museum.

“I’m pleased to report that the trustees of the Forest Akers Trust unanimously approved MSU’s request to fund a $2 million project titled ‘Forest Akers Trust Immersive & Exhibit Labs’ at the MSU Museum,” said Stephen Terry, trustee of the Forest Akers Trust. “The objective of the trust is to promote the general interest and welfare of the student body of Michigan State University. This project clearly fits this objective, as the museum has been an integral part of student life and learning since the founding of the university in 1855.”

Established in the early 1960s by former MSU Trustee Forest Akers, the Forest H. Akers Trust Fund has been a steadfast supporter of MSU and its student body. Over the decades, the trust has contributed significantly to a variety of projects, benefiting the broader university community and enhancing the overall educational experience at MSU.

“We are profoundly grateful for the Forest Akers Trust’s vision and generosity,” said Devon Akmon, director of the MSU Museum. “This gift is a game-changer, enabling us to create inclusive, interactive learning environments that will support student success and inspire curiosity and creativity for years to come.”

Building on the MSU Museum’s commitment to fostering a culture of innovation and inclusion, this investment from the Forest Akers Trust marks a significant step toward realizing that vision.

This support is also another recent instance of increased investment in the arts on campus. MSU is home to nationally accredited museums, leading performing arts venues and programming that serves the community at the intersection of arts and research. Launched this fall, Arts MSU spotlights the importance of the kind of creativity, interdisciplinary discovery and student hands-on learning that can happen in these spaces, while gifts like this one make it possible.

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