Why are collections important?

Collections are an irreplaceable world resource held in trust for the long-term benefit of society. Natural and cultural history collections are vital for research, education, interpretation, public enjoyment and inspiration, cultural identity, environmental protection, and advancement of scientific knowledge. In this exhibit, visitors can view examples from the collections displayed in “open storage” in museum-quality storage cabinets. These cabinets are important in guarding against extremes in temperature, humidity, and light, all of which can damage collections over time. The state-of-the-art cabinets also have smooth gliding drawers that help to minimize damage from vibrations and other physical forces. Visitors can learn more about the specimens and artifacts in the Museum’s collections, how researchers and students learn from those collections, and the ways museum staff members help preserve those collections for now and the future.

What is a specimen?

Archaeopteryx skeleton cast

Natural history specimens document the natural world, past and present. They are a critical resource for scientists and provide a biological database that is the basis for our understanding of the evolution and diversity of life on Earth. Natural History collections contain unique and irreplaceable records of life on earth, including specimens of extinct species, and a record of change over time. In the face of environmental change, declining populations, disappearing species, and destruction of fossil sites, MSU Museum specimens have become nonrenewable resources. Museums may eventually be the only places where extinct species exist or where researchers learn ways to help species survive.

What is an artifact?

Cultural artifacts document history and express human creativity and diversity. We are interested in how artifacts are made, how they are used, how they express human values and how they influence society and the lives of individuals. Our focus is on the cultural history of the Great Lakes region, and its roots and connections with other cultures. Over generations, traditional cultures are being homogenized, lost, or changed by technology. Our collections document the lifestyles and preserve the cultures of people from around the world, past and present.

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