Kelsey Museum of Archeology brings Ancient Egypt into the modern age

by Dominique-Midwest Guest / Feb 09, 2014 / 0 comments

The mummy of Djehutymose, a priest in the Temple of Horus between 684 and 525 B.C., may be missing, but he cheerfully informs his Facebook followers that his spirit (or "Ba") still lingers around his coffin at the Kelsey Museum of Archeology in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Mummy Djehutymose Facebook page is part of the University of Michigan museum's effort to engage with visitors via various online channels while telling the story of the life and times of the people of Ancient Egyptian and other cultures.

Djehutymose's empty coffin is one of the museum's Egyptian treasures that seem particularly fascinating to the museum's youngest visitors, and the development of the ancient priest's modern-day personality and poignant search for his missing mummy serves to further personalize the story of ancient times for them.

The museum's home in a late-nineteenth century building originally constructed as a home for one of the earliest campus Christian associations in the country has an interesting history itself. The quirky look of the building with its random-cut fieldstone construction and three-story turret with a conical roof initially drew my attention, although massive scale of the building's interior and impressive collection displayed inside of the building surprised me and made me wonder why we hadn't visited or heard much about this museum in the past.


Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Ann Arbor


The museum's collection of antiquities has its origins in a collection amassed over many years by Francis W. Kelsey, a long-time and well loved professor of Latin Language and Literature at U of M. Professor Kelsey began collecting Mediterranean and Near Eastern artifacts in the 1890s by participating in pioneering archeological digs. He took students with him on digs, believing that by helping him collect the artifacts and viewing them personally were among the best ways for them to learn about ancient cultures.


Jewelry, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology


The enthusiasm of Prof. Kelsey and his students for expanding the collection meant that the University soon needed to find more exhibition space to properly display it.

The University began renting the old Christian organization's quarters for classroom space by 1921. They began moving the growing archeological collection in the building by the end of the 1920s. University officials formally established an archeological museum at the site, naming the museum for Kelsey in 1933 and purchasing the building in 1937.


Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Ann Arbor


The building looks like a stately late-nineteenth century home from the front, but an $8 million 20,000-square-foot addition to the back of the original home added considerable climate-controlled space for display, research, and storage at the museum.

The additional space allows the museum to publically display 1,300 to 2,000 artifacts. Although that total is many more than the 200 to 300 items on display in the original building, it is still just a fraction of the nearly 100,000 artifacts in the museum’s collection.

I'd read about museum plans to display several hundred additional items in open storage cabinets on the first floor, but we found that some of the drawers were already stocked with small artifacts ready for viewing when one group of curious young museum explorers discovered that the drawers were unlocked and opened them to see what was inside!


figurines, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Ann Arbor


The collection focuses on Greek, Egyptian, Near Eastern, and Roman artifacts with individual display cases and areas highlighting distinct cultures and the interconnections between ancient people and cultures.

I especially like the way the museum displays artifacts like jewelry, pottery, toys, lamps, coins, tools, jugs and other every-day items to give visitors a real feeling for how people lived during ancient times.


Pottery, Kelsey Museum or Archaeology


Funerary objects like mummies and items left as offerings in tombs (like a mummified cat!) also give visitors a look at the way those same people viewed death as well.


You'll find the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology on South State Street near the heart of the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The museum is near the historic U of M Student Union Building and pretty much across the street from the University of Michigan's Museum of Art, which are both also worth a stop when you visit the Kelsey.

Museum hours are 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum closes on Mondays and for University of Michigan holidays.

Admission is free, although donations are welcome.


The Kelsey Archeological Museum also has a strong online presence. You can check out an online gallery of cuneiform tablets with texts predating 2000 B.C., diaries of ongoing archeological digs, follow the museum on Twitter, like the Kelsey on Facebook, and check out the Tumbler account, which features news and articles about curators’ favorite artifacts online. To dig in, start here!   Be sure to check out the ever personable Mummy Djehutymose’s Facebook page and Twitter feed!


Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Ann Arbor



Dominique King is a metro Detroit writer who began her writing career as a freelance business writer for local newspapers and magazines. Dominique is the publisher of, a member regular blogging team at and authored a series of encyclopedia entries for the Michigan Companion. She has a degree in Communications (M.A.) from Detroit's Wayne State University.

Text and photos © Dominique King, and used with permission for Wandering Educators Additional photos @Tim Marks, used with permission for Wandering Educators