“The building was stuffed to the gills,” says Kelsey Museum director Sharon Herbert.
In contrast to the high-profile addition to the U-M Museum of Art across State Street, the expansion of the Kelsey, the U-M’s museum of archeology, attracted little notice. But that didn’t stop fans from turning out in force for its November reopening. “If any more came,” says Herbert, “we’d have had to turn them away.”
Herbert says the understated approach was deliberate. One of campus’s most striking buildings, the Kelsey’s stone castle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The architects–Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge, of Chicago–designed the Upjohn Exhibit Wing to be lower than and behind the original building. Windows along the south side make it especially inviting at night, when passersby cutting through from Maynard to State can see the glass objects displayed inside.
The glass, the popular Egyptian mummy case, and other ancient artifacts–pottery, statues, figurines, jewelry–are all now housed in the new wing. The additional space allows curators to arrange the collection in new ways. It’s “a multicultural look at the ancient world through a combination of artifacts from sites from different parts of the ancient world,” explains Todd Gerring, the Kelsey’s outreach coordinator. “One civilization flows into another.” A burial exhibit, for example, includes a child’s skeleton in a cave and grave markers such as inscribed Roman steles and Egyptian wood paintings. A re-creation of a Roman bath includes a variety of health and beauty artifacts, while a writing exhibit has examples of seals, cylinders, and papyrus.
The new wing was primarily paid for with an $8.5 million gift from the late Mary and Ed Meader of Kalamazoo. Generous U-M supporters–they also made major gifts to the renovation of Hill Auditorium, the music and medical schools, the chemistry department, and the Depression Center–they asked that the wing be named in honor of Mary’s grandfather, pharmaceuticals pioneer William Upjohn.
The original 1891 Romanesque building is now used for classes and public programs. Its restored Tiffany window–one of only two in Ann Arbor–is now lit up at night for the pleasure of passersby on State Street.