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April 14, 2004

$8 million gift to Kelsey Museum of the University of Michigan
A wooden toy horse with wheels (first-fourth centuries A.D.) excavated at Karanis, Egypt

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University of Michigan's Kelsey Museum of Archaeology has announced an $8 million gift to construct a new exhibit wing on the 1891 Newberry Hall from two long-term donors, Mary and Edwin Meader of Kalamazoo.

The Meaders' gift will fully fund the expansion of the museum facility and enable the University to display much more of its renowned collections from Egypt and the ancient Mediterranean.   The gift is the largest in the history of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, which operates the museum.

The Meaders have been supporters of U-M for more than 30 years, donating to the Chemistry Department, School of Music, Medical School, and Hill Auditorium, among others. Mr. Meader is a 1933 graduate of the University of Michigan. Mrs. Meader attended Smith College. He taught geography of the Middle East at both Wayne State University and Western Michigan University. Both the Meader and Upjohn families, of which Mrs. Meader is a member, have a long history of association with the University.

The Meaders' special interest in the Kelsey stems from Mr. Meader's undergraduate days at the University of Michigan and from his visit as a U.S. Army soldier in 1944 to the Kelsey's archaeological excavation site at Karanis in Egypt. After World War II, Mr. Meader returned to Michigan and met with the then-director of the Kelsey, professor Enoch E. Peterson. Peterson was intrigued by what Mr. Meader had seen at Karanis and over the coming years the two shared an interest in archaeology. In their travels around the world, the Meaders have visited a number of archaeological sites and museums.   In 1938, Mrs. Meader participated in a three-month aerial tour from Capetown to Cairo in which she took more than a thousand photos, some of which may provide background for a Kelsey Egyptian exhibit.

The Kelsey's collection today comprises approximately 100,000 objects, 25,000 photographs, and extensive archives of excavation records of Mediterranean civilizations from 5000 B.C. to 900 A.D. Curators began collecting in the 1920s and today fieldwork continues in Israel, Egypt, and other sites. The museum is also an academic center for several UM departments, including Classical Studies, Near Eastern Studies, and History of Art. Its Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology is ranked as one of the best graduate programs in the country. The Kelsey curators are university professors who draw on the museum's collections in their undergraduate and graduate teaching. Since 1928 Newberry Hall—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—has been home to the Kelsey Museum.

The new exhibit wing, according to museum director Sharon Herbert, will be designed to modern museum standards with climate control, lighting, and security systems. New galleries will allow more of the collections to be on display for the public and will allow curators and staff to create a greater number of imaginative exhibitions. Currently, only one percent of the collections are on exhibit. Further, the addition will free up area in the original building for much-needed study space. Getting students exposure to exhibition preparation greatly complements their classroom instruction, according to Herbert, and better prepares them for careers as curators themselves.

“The Meaders' gift addresses a 70-year-old problem we've had at the Kelsey: not enough exhibition space,” Herbert said. “The curators and staff are ecstatic about the gift. The Meaders' generosity will enrich and sustain undergraduate and graduate research and learning at the Kelsey for generations to come.”

Terrence McDonald, dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, said of the gift: “The importance of the Kelsey to the intellectual lifeblood of the University is great because museums are the places where theory meets practice: where archeological experts and their students can hold an artifact and come to understand volumes about a vanished civilization's art or religion or social structure.”

McDonald noted that the Meaders' gift would underwrite the capital improvement of the Kelsey in its entirety.

“We are most grateful to the Meaders,” McDonald said.   “Almost since its beginning, the Kelsey has needed additional space.   The generosity of Mrs. and Mr. Meader will enable us to draw on private support to address this need.”


At the heart of the museum's collections are the excavated materials from Karanis, a Graeco-Roman farming town site in the Fayoum district of Egypt. Excavated from 1924 to 1935, the site yielded artifacts that document the lives of the common people of agrarian Egypt under Roman rule from about 200 BC to 500 AD. The 45,000 artifacts from Karanis that were assigned to the University by the Egyptian Antiquities Organization include approximately 3500 textiles, 1800 pottery vessels, pottery lamps, many intact glass vessels, more than 30,000 coins, numerous agricultural implements, woodworking and weaving tools, baskets, sandals, sculptures, toys and other objects of daily life.

Forty tombs at Terenouthis, a cemetery site in the Egyptian Delta, were excavated in 1935. More than 2000 objects including almost 200 limestone grave stelae, hundreds of coins, terracotta figurines, mummy amulets, wall paintings, pottery and jewelry give a unique glimpse of Egyptian religion from about 300 BC through 300 AD. Another major site, Seleucia-on-the-Tigris in Iraq, was the source of nearly 10,000 artifacts. Excavated from 1928 to 1937, this collection contains principally pottery, coins, terracotta figurines, beads, carved architectural fragments, bronze, bone and gold items.

In addition to the excavated materials from these and other sites, numerous purchases and gifts of related materials comprise collections of Late Antique textiles (c. 1700 examples), Islamic textiles (c. 300), Roman glass (c. 1000), Latin inscriptions (c. 650), Dynastic Egyptian and Cypriot antiquities, Mesopotamian and Babylonian seals and tablets, architectural marbles (c. 1250), Greek and Roman pottery (c. 1700), and fine art albumen photographs (c. 10,000). The collections also encompass a photographic archive that includes approximately 20,000 documentary photographs of the Mediterranean area and the University's excavations, as well as several hundred linear feet of written archives.

Kelsey Museum of Archaeology


Contact: John Kinch
Phone: (734) 998-6241