Go to nature
“Every paleontologist knows all things must adapt and evolve or face extinction,” writes Dr. Ron Tykoski, BS ’95, in a sentimental tribute to the U-M Museum of Natural History, which closed its doors to the public on Dec. 31, 2017. But don’t panic. Its new home, the Biological Sciences Building, opens for classes in 2018; the museum will open in stages the following year. And if the memories of the original UMMNH below tell us anything, the new museum is sure to inspire a passion for science in U-M’s third century. These images and edited captions were sourced from Museum Memories. Submit your own memories and photos there, and see the UMMNH video “Time to Evolve.”
Will Hathaway, BA ’83
Year of memory: 1967
The museum was a favorite location for childhood outings. We went often and I felt at home there. We would always climb up to sit on the Pumas. This photo was taken by my grandfather, A.K. Stevens. He had taken me and my neighborhood friend, Jeff, to see the dinosaurs. I don’t know why we had straw hats. . .
Connected to Kahn
The Edgar and Rose Kahn family
Year of memory: 1960s
Our grandfather, Albert Kahn, who had long since passed before our births, designed the building [constructed in 1928]. There was a blessed freedom in the place. You could never see all the details in the displays. Never. The final event was to climb up on the Pumas [which arrived in 1940]. We were convinced they were put there for us by our Grandpa. How could he have known that we would arrive on the planet some 10 years and more after his death? He must have imagined this.
Tom the Docent, BA ’59/MS ’60
Year of memory: 1959
My wife, MaryLou, and I were both docents and first met in front of the duck-billed dinosaur. I wrote a silly poem asking her to go canoeing and camping for the weekend. A bold invite back then. She said yes right away but invited another fellow from India. She was secretary for the International Student’s Association and said she felt sorry for him because he’d never been canoeing. So, our first date was a threesome on the Au Sable! We got married six months later. Maybe she felt sorry for me.
Eileen Dickinson, BS ’75
Year of memory: 1955
I have fond memories of sitting in front of the Native American dioramas every time I visited the museum. I would imagine that I was part of the scene. This is the dominant memory of being there, other than in the planetarium. I can also still smell the small zoo that was outside and just east of the museum. And the Gila monster on the landing of the stairs. I loved the stairwell as a kid (3 or 4 years old).
Dr. Ron Tykoski, BS ’95
Year of memory: 1990-95
I started working in the fossil lab [in the Museum of Paleontology] in 1991. Over the next four years I learned fossil preparation from one of the best in the business, Dr. Bill Sanders. I worked as a docent in the Exhibit Museum at the same time. They even used a photo of me [with mustache] and another student in the fossil lab posing with parts of the huge skull of the ancient whale Basilosaurus to decorate the coin-spiraling ‘wishing well’ located on the main stairway landing for many years. (Note: Today, Tykoski is director of the Paleontology Lab at Dallas’ Perot Museum of Nature and Science.)
What big eyes you have
Tanya Dewey, PhD ’06
Year of memory: 1998
I was in a PhD program in the museum and my daughter, pictured here, loved to spend school days off at the museum with me. I would give her $1 for the vending machine – as it was a great and slightly scary adventure to take the elevator into the basement there – and she would take her drawing supplies into the exhibits. My daughter [BS ’13, evolutionary biology] now works as a scientific illustrator for the University of Chicago, so this was transformative!
Paul Sutherland, BA ’08
Year of memory: 1991
My grandfather, Thomas Sutherland, took this picture while he and I visited UMMNH in 1991. I was six. He blew it up and framed it, creating a significant representation of our relationship at that time. Finding this picture now at age 33 made me reflect on everything I owe my grandfather in my life, including my love for U-M. These museum trips also helped inform my love of science and fascination with the world around me.
Waiting for a (radiocarbon) date
Jeffrey R. Parsons, MA ’63/PhD ’66
Year of memory: 1961
I arrived at U-M in fall 1961 as a graduate student in the Dept. of Anthropology. At that time graduate students had desks scattered around in the various “ranges.” Mine was in Room 4018 where I started out as the “radiocarbon clerk,” the guy who kept track of the back-and-forth correspondence between James Griffin and Richard Crane (Dept. of Physics) relating to the archaeological samples sent in and processed for radiocarbon dating in Crane’s lab in the nearby Randall Building. (Note: While Parsons technically worked for one of the research museums, his picture was so cool we had to use it.)
My happy place
Bobby Jo Ludwig, BS ’08
Year of memory: 2016
I was a docent at the museum from 2005-08. It was my happy place on campus. Anyone who came to visit me got the VIP tour. Last year my mom was going through some very tough medical issues, which led to us spending lots of time at [University Hospital, Michigan Medicine]. One day I was able to pull my dad from my mom’s side and I took him to the museum. We walked around and I showed him all my favorite displays (including sitting in the canoe). During a very difficult part of my life, the museum became my happy place once again.
Gael Tisack, BSE ’85/MSE ’88/JD ’99
Year of memory: 2013
My daughter’s wedding was held at the museum. The ceremony was in the rotunda with food stations and tables placed around the second floor. It was amazing!