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Michigan State University Museum records

 Record Group
Identifier: UA-3.19

Scope and Contents

The MSU Museum records consist primarily of materials from the director and of the curator of history and include correspondence, reports, publications, reprints, and scrapbook collections of publicity. There are also visitor registers from 1896 and 1898. The papers of the museum director include the administration of Rollin H. Baker. The files also include research proposals and reports submitted by museum staff and graduate students. Additional director’s files for Rollin Baker were added and include files on the various organizations he was involved in including the Organization for Tropical Studies and the Michigan Audubon Society. There are also materials related to Michigan State University including the Latin American Studies Center, international programs, MSU Tropical Studies Group, WKAR scripts for radio classes, and material about Zoology 301 class tours. The papers of Frank N. Elliott, Curator of History at the MSU Museum from 1957 to 1961, reflect Elliott's attempts to formulate permanent exhibits that would present a view of the farm and home life in Michigan during the late 19th century. Included are letters to several Michigan libraries requesting genealogical data for individuals associated with the history of farm life in Michigan. The replies to his request are brief, containing such limited information as birth, death or occupation. Relating more directly to the affairs of the museum are the papers that present floor plans for several displays. A brief outline of the building structure and a historical sketch of the museum are also included. The publication series include a folder of abstracts of monographs and publications by museum staff members. Other publications include reports of the museum's archaeological projects in The Lasanen Site: An Historical Burial Locality In Mackinac County, Michigan; The Lothagam Site: A Late Stone Age Fishing Settlement in the Lake Rudolf Basin, Kenya; and Excavation at Fort Michilimacinac: Mackinac City, Michigan, 1959 Season. The Cathcart Family: A Family Account of 100 Years of American History was produced as part of the museum's Cultural Series publications.

The Electronic Resources includes issues of the e-newsletter, Museum News & Notes, from 2009 to 2016.


  • Creation: 1896 - 2021


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Historical Note

The Michigan State University Museum was established in 1857 and initially run by professors who taught courses in economic biology. Professor Albert J. Cook served as the museum's first curator (1875-1893), followed by zoologist Walter Barrows. Barrows and fellow biology professor Henry Goadby instituted the museum tradition of using instructional exhibits to emphasize economically important plants and animals. In 1924, Zoology Professor Joseph W. Stack (1893-1954) became curator, and was named director of the museum when the position was created in 1941. Stack is credited with modernizing and broadening exhibits to include anthropology, paleontology, and history. Rollin Baker, another zoologist, was named director of the museum in 1955 after the death of Stack. Baker held the position until his retirement in 1982. Under his leadership the museum expanded rapidly from 1957 to 1972. Curators were appointed to head various divisions of history (1957), anthropology (1958), vertebrate paleontology (1967), exhibits and College of Education in (1971), and ecology (1972). The museum's historical collections program, which began in the late 1950s, became an autonomous unit when the Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections was created in 1969. A fund raising effort to build a new wing on the museum to house a planetarium was so successful that the project gained independent status and Abrams Planetarium opened in 1964. The museum has been relocated a number of times since its establishment. Originally housed in College Hall (where Beaumont Tower stands today), the museum was moved in 1881 to the top floor of the new Library-Museum building (now known as Linton Hall).

When a larger library was built in 1934 the museum was given space on the top floor, remaining there until 1940 when it was moved to the basement of the Auditorium. Finally, in 1957 the museum settled into its present home in the vacated library building after the new library was completed.


4 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Preservica Public URL|a1dbcfc8-18ed-40dc-9f04-5981080d9768/

Legal Status

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to Michigan State University but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Copyright restrictions may apply. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

MSU Museum Records
4 Published And Cataloged
Michele McCauley
September 1987
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
  • TypeCollection

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US