Exploring the Museum Collections at UMich

by Katherine and Elisabeth Sorrows

First Day at University of Michigan

We got to interact with current PhD students, meet with an EC alum who works in the museum, explore the collections and museum and talk to the museum staff. We will focus this week on our interactions with the collections. Look NEXT week for our blog about the museum.

Coffee Break: Meeting Doctoral Students

We arrived Friday in the morning in time to join the Ph.D. students for their coffee break. People from different departments of science would come together and have coffee everyday. Some students were using the time to check in with their advisors or just hang out and talk about topics either related to their research or current news that is going on around the world. Some were also chatting and hanging out as any students would.

Mollusk Collection

We were able to meet with a few different people throughout the day. We met with Diarmid O’Foighil who is the Director of UMMZ as well as the mollusk curator. One thing that surprised me was how small some of the mollusks were, many of what we looked at were tiny dots in little tubes. There were also really big mollusks, the diversity was really interesting, it was fun to look at both together. We also learned about some disease research taking place about mollusks.

Bird Collection

I really liked getting to see the bird collection. Janet Hinshaw, an EC alum, showed us the collection. We said we wanted to see some of the extinct birds, type specimens, birds of paradise and some from Hawaii.  It was really cool to get to hold some of the extinct birds; the ivory billed woodpecker, northern flicker, Norfolk Pigeon, and the flightless Stephens Island Wren. The Birds of Paradise got their names by Europeans who received footless and sometimes wingless specimens that had been prepared by the native traders. They removed the wings and feet for easier transport and for decorations. The Europeans wondered about the mythical footless and wingless birds and how they kept themselves aloft by their plumes.

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We met with Cody Thompson in the mammal collection. We got to see many different small and large taxidermy mammals and the skins collection. The museum is moving soon so we looked at the collections and talked some about how to move such big collections. We also talked about the importance of choosing what your museum can take and saying no to certain animals. It is important to consider the size of the collections, the space, and the amount of preparation that will be needed of the offered specimen will require.

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