While the US is famed for stunning, monolithic museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., many museum enthusiasts find that some of the greatest pleasures in visiting galleries in the US come from the smaller, lesser-known university museums that dot the US landscape. From Harvard to Ohio State, the incredible collections of universities across the country are an amazing part of the fabric of the country’s history. Here are just 50 of the best museums available for the enterprising history and art aficionado.
50. Orton Geological Museum – The Ohio State University
With over a century’s worth of collections, the OSU Orton Geological Museum is an oasis of knowledge in the midwest. Combining the intellectual rigor of The Ohio State University with a vast array of specimens and fossils from around the globe, the Orton is renowned as a center of learning, and one that visitors can become awestruck by. Located in Columbus and a part of the beautiful university campus, visitors will find special learning experiences with the museum’s prehistoric exhibits, where giant sloths stand near the fossils of trilobites.
49. Brigham Young University Museum of Peoples and Culture
Brigham Young University in Provo, UT has a rich history of being dedicated to the arts and museums; the first museum curator was appointed in 1879. The Museum of Peoples and Culture focuses on exceptional anthropological, archeological, and ethnographic artifacts. From gorgeous shell necklaces from Polynesia, to American Southwest pottery, the extensive collection contains over one million objects. Past exhibitions have included Nuchu: Voices of the Ute People, and Mexican Masks and Entwined, a presentation of Mayan textiles. The Museum of Peoples and Culture offers numerous programs such as monthly date nights and summer programs for children.
48. University of Mississippi Museum
The collections in the University of Mississippi Museum in Oxford place a special emphasis on objects of regional interest. The museum is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the cultural heritage of Mississippi and the American South. Along with viewing collections of American fine art, Southern folk art and 19th century scientific objects, you can also visit and tour the historic homes that the museum owns and operates. The Walton-Young Historic House is a middle-class Victorian era home registered as a Mississippi Historic Landmark and Rowan Oak was home to Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Faulkner.
47. Howard University Gallery of Art
Adding arts education to the curriculum within the first ten years of its foundation, Howard University in Washington D.C. has always had a focus on the importance of fine art. It formally opened the Gallery of Art in 1930. A highlight of the permanent collection is the last completed work of artist Henry O. Tanner, Return from the Crucifixion, an oil tempera painting. Other significant holdings of the Howard University Gallery of Art are Renaissance and Baroque paintings, European prints from the 16th through 19th centuries and a collection of African artifacts. Rotating exhibits have included Reflections: African American Life’ from the Myrna Colley-Lee Collection and “Building on Tradition”.
46. University of Iowa Museum of Art
Another location famed for its support of artists, with the Iowa Writer’s Workshop being a veritable career-starter for novelists and poets, the University of Iowa has an excellent art museum, with a collection ranging from contemporary American art to a beautiful collection of African art. For residents of the midwest or those looking for a great spot to visit, this might just be a place to add to your list.
45. Mills College Art Museum
Advanced and innovative, the Mills College in Oakland, CA offered its students an art history curriculum in 1875. This love and devotion of art has expanded into the Mills College Art Museum, home to over 10,000 diverse works of art. With the largest permanent collection from any liberal arts college on the West Coast, centuries of art-making practices are represented. Not only are the art collections amazing, but the actual building itself is a sight to behold. The building is made entirely of concrete with a patterned glass ceiling that allows natural light in and features decorative ornamentation around its doors and windows. To express the importance of art, inscribed on the front entrance is a quote from Hippocrates, “Ars Longa, Vita Brevis”, (Art is long, life is short).
44. Burke Museum of Natural History – University of Washington
Visitors to and residents of the Seattle area will love this charming museum, with its extensive collections of dinosaur fossils and conservation-minded approach to the natural world. A must for for families in the area, the museum sets out to inspire the scientists of tomorrow and to create methods of critical thought.
43. The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art – Northwestern University
Located on the beautiful North Shore of Chicago, Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art offers a diverse permanent collection representing art from across time, cultures and media. This dynamic and innovative museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums, which recognizes the high standards and public accountability of the Block Museum of Art. The museum has thought-provoking exhibits ranging from 15th century artifacts and bronze sculptures to Andy Warhol prints and architectural drawings by Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin. There are also several works created by local Chicago artists.
42. Brandeis University Rose Art Museum
The campus of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts is home to the beautiful Rose Art Museum. With a strong focus in American art from the 1960’s and 1970’s, their permanent collection includes exclusive artwork from artists such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Morris Louis and Roy Lichtenstein. Another permanent fixture of the Rose Art Museum is Chris Burden’s Light of Reason, a spectacular outdoor sculpture that serves as an inviting gateway to the museum. Rose Art Museum hosts Gallery Talks where artists, curators, and other art professionals will join professors for an open discussion. They also host an educational and fun Family Day.
41. Museum of the North – University of Alaska
An integral part of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, the Museum of the North features a collection of 1.4 million artifacts and specimens. This diverse collection is organized into ten different categories including fine arts, mammals, plants, earth sciences, birds, and archeology. The only research and teaching museum in Alaska, the Museum of the North has state-of-the-art research laboratories, a specialized alcohol collection room, and specimen preparation labs. Some of the key attractions at the Museum of the North are the state’s largest public display of gold, ancient ivory carvings in the Rose Berry Art Gallery and Blue Babe, a 36,000 year old mummified steppe bison.
40. Gallaudet University Museum
Dedicated to promoting and interpreting the rich and complex deaf experience, the Gallaudet University Museum in Washington D.C. is a unique and innovative institution. Exhibits and artifacts in this museum provide the public with an interesting view on common understandings of historical and contemporary deaf life. Exhibits specific to the Gallaudet University Museum are Making a Difference: Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers and Gallaudet at 150 and Beyond. While visiting, also check out The Edward Miner Gallaudet Residence, also known as House One, a 35-room Victorian Gothic mansion built in 1869 for Gallaudet University’s founder and first president.
39. Arizona State University Art Museum
Founded with a gift of American and Mexican artwork in 1950, the Arizona State University Art Museum in Tempe has grown to include regional art, a significant American craft collection and numerous works of art from contemporary artists. The museum’s impressive ceramic collection, containing 3,500 pieces, is housed in the Ceramics Research Center. More than half of this collection is viewable at any one time in the gallery and open storage. The Arizona State University Art Museum hosts many different annual events such as the Annual Short Film and Video Festival and the Annual Street Party.
38. University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History
Oregon’s primary source for anthropological and paleontological collections, the Museum of Natural and Cultural History features an extensive fossil collection contributed by Thomas Condon in 1876. Now, home to hundreds of thousands of archeological artifacts, biological specimens, and fossils, this museum is the premier natural and cultural history museum in the State of Oregon. Highlights at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History are The Glenn Starlin Native Plant Courtyard, the Jensen Arctic Collection and the interactive laboratory offering hands-on science-based activities for visitors of all ages.
37. Bellarmine Museum of Art – Fairfield University
With an incredibly rich and broad collection of paintings, sculpture, and plaster casts, the Bellarmine Museum of Art is a must-see for art enthusiasts. Located on the campus of the Fairfield University in Connecticut, the museum is home to The Kress Collections, which is comprised of ten paintings by artists of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods. Along with these historic paintings, there is a growing collection of plaster casts representing works of art from the Classical world through the Renaissance. The Bellarmine Museum of Art also has an extensive collection focusing on the distant cultures of China, Thailand, India, and Persia.
36. University of Michigan Museum of Art
With an extensive collection of art from Asia, America, the Middle East, and Africa, and other regions, along with a barrage of styles that include European Impressionism mixed with American post-modernism, the University of Michigan’s collection is one of the most distinguished and largest in the country, if not the world. For Michigan residents, the museum offers a wealth of educational possibilities. A friendly place for families to bring children, the museum offers educational programs at K-12 levels, with 5000 young visitors coming to the museum every year. Bonus day trips to the University’s museums of paleontology, zoology and anthropology are also great ideas for those eager for a wonderful educational experience. Children will be especially delighted by the wealth of information available in fascinating formats at these fine institutions. With a powerhouse university that is set to only increase its wealth of artifacts and works by great painters, the University of Michigan’s museum system will be one to watch in the coming years.
35. Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art – Auburn University
Historic Auburn University in Alabama opened the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art to the public in 2003. Since then, art lovers from around the world have been able to visit and view the collection of paintings, prints, photos and more from the 18th to the 21st centuries. Collection highlights include more than 40 rare Tibetan bronze sculptures, the Amber Luster Chandelier by artist Dale Chihuly and Spinoff, a striking geometric outdoor sculpture by artist and Auburn alumna Jean Woodham. The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art rotates its extensive collection to ensure visual variety each time you visit.
34. University Museums at the University of Delaware
On the campus of the University of Delaware in Newark, there are three notable buildings comprising the University Museums. The Mineralogical Museum attracts mineral enthusiasts with approximately 450 specimens focusing on crystallized minerals, gem minerals, and classics from early European and American localities. The Old College Gallery is a National Historic Register building constructed in 1834. Permanent art collections highlight significant works by Brandywine School, Pre-Columbian and Southwest Native American ceramics, American sculpture and painting of the 20th century and a select collection of Russian icons from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Mechanical Hall is home to the Paul R. Jones Collection of African American Art.
33. Indiana University Art Museum
Established in 1941 as a small university teaching collection, the Indiana University Art Museum has grown into one of the foremost university art museums in the country. With over 80,000 visitors each year, this museum is dedicated to enriching the lives of, not only students, but society as a whole. The unique collections of African masks, ancient gold jewelry and artwork by Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso are housed in a beautifully unique building featuring a triangular atrium by architect I.M. Pei. While visiting the Indiana University Art Museum, be sure to check out the print viewing room where you can request to view some of the over 5,000 prints, drawings and photographs the Museum has in storage.
32. Museum of Contemporary Native Arts – Institute of American Indian Arts
The Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico has the country’s only museum dedicated to the progressive work of Native artists. The Museum of Contemporary Native Arts contains galleries dedicated to exceptional Native artists including the Lloyd Kiva New Gallery, Allan Houser Art Park, Fritz Scholder Gallery and Helen Hardin Gallery. Samples of exhibitions hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts are Dark Light: The Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse and Star Wallowing Bull: Mechanistic Renderings.
31. RISD Museum – Rhode Island School of Design
If it isn’t the best design school in the US, RISD its museum is certainly one of them. It is an excellent example of how a university collection can rival even the best institutions. For visitors interested in a tour through a fine collection of world art (European art of a wide variety of times and locations is one of the museum’s strongpoints), it’s hard to beat the knowledgeable curators and outstandingly beautiful galleries of RISD.
30. Amherst College Mead Art Museum
The Mead Art Museum, located on the campus of Amherst College in Massachusetts, showcases a beautiful collection of American and European paintings, ancient Assyrian carvings, West African sculpture and much more. The wide-ranging art collection can be viewed in the varying exhibitions such as Gods, Kings, and Lovers: Paintings from Courtly India and Nature, Pleasure, Myth: Animals in the Art of Japan. If you are interested in an item in their collection that is not currently on display, you can request an appointment to view it in the museum study room. The Mead Art Museum led the installation of art in the newly renovated Russian Center Art Gallery, also located on the Amherst College campus.
29. The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago
With a focus on art and archaeology of the Near East, the university’s Oriental Institute is not just tied to a learning powerhouse in the University of Chicago, but is a research mecca in its own right. Exhibits such as the gallery’s tribute to excavations in Egypt, Israel, Iran, and Syria are well worth the trip while avoiding the crowds at bigger Chicago museums. The Institutes findings in the ancient Iranian civilization of Persepolis make the museum a must-see for visitors getting a grasp of what life in an ancient mega-city was like. With a collection overlooked by a 40-ton sculpture of a bull’s head found in the ancient city of Persepolis and by a statue of the Egyptian pharoah Tutankhamun, the collection is as imposing as it is fascinating. With its free admission price, the value of taking time to visit the Institute can’t be overstated, especially for families.
28. University of Nebraska State Museum
Specializing in Botany, Entomology and Paleontology, the University of Nebraska State Museum has thousands of unique specimens to view. The ethnological collection includes over 40,000 artifacts from Africa, North America, Oceania and the upper Amazon. The museum also has a collection of over 11,000 bird specimens that are a part of a large Midwest database. A fish collection started in 1984 contains nearly 8,500 specimens primarily from Nebraska. Also, part of the University of Nebraska State Museum is the Bessey Herbarium. The museum was founded in 1874 and includes more than 310,000 plant specimens. This collection is one of the oldest and largest in the Great Plains region.
27. The Fralin Museum at the University of Virginia
With its foundation by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia has always been a respected apex of thought on the arts and sciences. Its Fralin Museum (formerly the University of Virginia Museum of Art), proudly works in this heritage, with collections spanning thousands of works on a global scale. The museum is particularly known for valuing educational outreach, and its family-friendly mission will be a great influence to any visitors with children. Indeed, the Fralin is heavily involved in local community services, so residents of the Charlottesville area in which the university is located may be interested to volunteer part time with the museum. Whether visitors are interested in European art of recent centuries or an outstanding collection of Aboriginal art, the Fralin Museum is one of the great centers of learning in the country.
26. Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology – Brown University
At the teaching museum of Brown University in Rhode Island, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology is an excellent resource for archaeological, ethnological and anthropological artifacts. Originally founded by Rudolf F. Haffenreffer Jr., his family donated the museum to Brown University after his death in 1955. Haffenreffer was primarily interested in Native American culture and history and had an extensive collection of nearly 60,000 American Indian artifacts. The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology has expanded into more than one million specimens from all over the world, particularly Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas. Specific exhibitions include Images of Power: Rulership in the Grasslands of Cameroon and the CultureLab.
25. Gilcrease Museum – University of Tulsa
While it’s a smaller state in the grand scheme of America’s population, Oklahoma packs an educational and cultural punch, with outstanding schools such as The University of Tulsa. A unique public/private partnership has found TU managing the world-class collection of Gilcrease Museum, a city-owned museum founded as a private museum by oilman Thomas Gilcrease. Gilcrease Museum is a great place to go if you’re looking for a detailed history of the west, but its wide variety of subjects will please any visitor. With its anthropological wonders and fascinating history of scholarship, the museum will be especially interesting to visitors interested in Western American art and Native American history, for which the museum’s collections are famous.
24. Jundt Art Museum – Gonzaga University
Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA is home to the Jundt Art Museum, which includes the Jundt Galleries, the Arcade Gallery, and the Chancellor’s Room. The Jundt Galleries is divided into several exhibition areas. The Arcade Gallery is an open lobby hosting different traveling exhibits. Collections in the Museum feature prints, paintings, ceramics, photographs and bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin. The Chancellor’s Room permanently displays the glorious Gonzaga University Red Chandelier, a beautiful piece of art designed by Tacoma glass artist Dale Chihuly. Blown at his studio and then transferred to the Museum, this remarkable glass sculpture alone is worth the visit.
23. The Wolfsonian Florida International University
Located in the heart of historic Miami Beach, the Wolfsonian–Florida International University is more than just a museum; it is also a library and research center. Containing approximately 120,000 artifacts from the height of the Industrial Revolution and World War II, the Wolfsonian uses art as a way to illustrate significant social, historical and technological changes is our world. These objects range from furniture and periodicals to paintings, textiles, glass and ceramics. Although only opened to the public twenty years ago, it has already received recognition from educators, collectors and museum professionals.
22. University of Colorado Museum of Natural History
An academic unit of the Graduate School at the University of Colorado in Boulder, the Museum of Natural History provides public education and research of the natural world and humanities. The diverse collections contain more than four million artifacts in categories such as botany, paleontology, anthropology, and entomology. With programs and activities for adults and K-12 students, the Museum of Natural History offers guided tours, lectures and family days. This museum received accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 2003, an achievement earned by less than 5% of museums in the U.S. Special exhibits in the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History include Contemporary Pueblo Pottery and Fossils: Clues to the Past.
21. University of Arizona Arts & Museums
Visiting the University of Arizona Arts & Museums in Tuscon will provide you and your family with days of education and entertainment. From the Center for Creative Photography to the Mineral and Pharmacy Museums, there is something that will interest everyone. For the artist, there is the Arizona State Museum with its exhibits displaying the cultures of Arizona, the American Southwest and northern Mexico or the University of Arizona Museum of Art, with over 5,000 paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings emphasizing European and American fine art. For the science and nature lover, there is the Campus Arboretum, Biosphere 2, and the Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium. If you love the performing arts, be sure to check out a performance at the School of Dance, School of Music or the Arizona Repertory Theatre.
20. Williams College Museum of Art
A small but prestigious liberal arts college, Williams’ museum is renowned for its extensive collection of over 13,000 works, beautiful grounds, and dedication to public education via free admission. Specialities in Nigerian, Greek, and Egyptian art make the Williams catalogs a particular point of interest to visitors to the Williamstown, Massachusetts area; indeed, day trips from Boston to Williamstown are also well worth the time, and with the museum’s emphasis on education, the museum is a great place to bring the entire family.
19. Dartmouth College Hood Museum of Art
Since the early date of 1772, Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH has been collecting objects. In 1985, the award-winning postmodern building of the Hood Museum of Art was completed. The present collection of approximately 65,000 objects is among the oldest and largest of any college or university in the United States. More than anything, the Hood Museum of Art is a teaching museum that encourages direct engagements with works of art. With a variety of programs, workshops, and exhibitions, the museum is committed to the development of visual literacy skills. When visiting, be sure to ask about the “Learning to Look” teaching method to learn how to explore beautiful works of art.
18. Fowler Museum – University of California, Los Angeles
Tucked away amid the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles hills is an incredible collection of archaeological and anthropological finds. Indeed, a visit to the Fowler Museum can be a time of great joy for individuals and families on a trip to the West Coast or who have a home in the sunny environs of Southern California. With works spanning from Africa to Asia, the museum has no shortage of wonders, and its free price tag for admission should make a great deal for big families hoping to inspire their children.
17. Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
With a plethora of exhibits and activities, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia is more than just a museum; it is a stimulating and enlightening experience for the whole family. Exhibits include the Dinosaur Hall, Secrets of the Diorama, What Eats What, and Marveling at Mollusks. The Butterflies! exhibit is tropical garden home to exotic plants and lives butterflies from Central and South America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. The interactive exhibit, The Big Dig, provides an opportunity to uncover dinosaur bones like a true paleontologist. From September 1 through June 30, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University hosts lives animal presentations and naturalist shows.
16. Princeton University Art Museum
Home to cultural luminaries like Albert Einstein and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Princeton is one of the most secluded of America’s Ivy League universities. Without the big-city flavor of Harvard or Yale, a walk through Princeton seems to be a trip through time that is both of the past and a quiet revolutionary parade of new ideas. This is especially true of the university’s collection of art. Whether you’re looking for classic paintings by Monet or the most cutting-edge contemporary sculpture by tomorrow’s luminaries of the form, Princeton University’s art museum is not to be missed. With its close proximity to New York City and Philadelphia, Princeton has those cities’ culture without all the crowds, and its laid-back sensibilities and beautiful architecture make its museum one of the most elegant in the country. The relaxed, collegiate atmosphere has a tone of its own, and a stroll around the university’s art collection can put you in another time while giving you a glimpse of what artists of the future might be doing.
15. Spencer Museum of Art – University of Kansas
Located on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, the Spencer Museum of Art is home to an internationally known collection of almost 36,000 culturally diverse artwork and artifacts in different forms of media. The collection contains pieces significant in all eras of art, from ancient medieval art and Native American materials to contemporary American artwork and 20th century Chinese paintings. The Spencer Museum of Art also has significant holdings of East Asian art and Japanese Edo period paintings. If you are seeking a full history of art from all over the world, this museum is an ideal choice for you.
14. Oberlin College Allen Memorial Art Museum
The Allen Memorial Art Museum on the Oberlin College campus in Oberlin, OH was founded in 1917 and is now recognized as one of the top five college and university art museums in the United States. The exquisite collection of 19th century paintings, sculptures, and decorative artwork is housed in a striking Italian Renaissance-style building named after 1875 Oberlin College graduate Dr. Dudley Peter Allen. Realizing the importance of art, since its inception, the Allen Memorial Art Museum has been free for everyone. In addition to the collection of artwork and artifacts from ancient times, a gallery for modern and contemporary art was added in 1977.
13. Harry Ransom Center – The University of Texas at Austin
A jewel in the Texas Desert, the Harry Ransom Center has everything an art buff could want. Located in the cultural melting pot of Austin and featuring 65,000 works of art and historical documents related to fascinating manuscripts and photography, the exhibition galleries of the Ransom Center will keep visitors entertained and learning new things, and the free admission is a great way for families to plan an incredible trip on a budget. Check the museum’s website for upcoming events; since this is a research center, many of the museum’s best items are on rotation.
12. Geological Museum – University of Wyoming
Wyoming has always been a place of natural wonders, and it’s no surprise that the University of Wyoming has many treasures in store for visitors to its Geological Museum. A hotbed of paleontology, individual and family visitors will be struck by the unique dinosaur fossils on display here. Lovingly constructed sets of Pterodactyl and Tyrannosaurus bones mix easily with excellent guided tours on the museum’s exhibits and a free admission policy means this is one of the friendliest museums in the US, especially for visitors with children.
11. Smith College Museum of Art
A hidden gem in Western Massachusetts’ beautiful cultural center of Northampton, the Smith College Museum of Art has a stunning collection that rivals nearby Harvard. The museum’s holdings are selected from a wide swathe of time periods and styles, with Asian, African, American and European art from ancient to contemporary times all equally represented. With its deep roots in education for women, it’s no surprise that Smith College’s art collection includes a profound number of selections by top female artists, including geniuses like Mary Cassatt and Julia Margaret Cameron available for viewing.
10. Berkeley Natural History Museums – University of California at Berkeley
With its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the wide expanses of the Western US, it’s no secret that students of natural history at the University of California at Berkeley has access to some of the greatest natural wonders in the world. And with a consortium of six natural history museums, UC Berkeley has a wealth of fun and learning for enterprising visitors. Whether it’s with a stop at the Entomology Museum for some of the most beautiful specimens of butterfly on display at any museum in the United States, or a walk to the UC Museum of Paleontology to fascinate the kids with a look at the results of archaeological digs. Kids will especially love the Tyrannosaurus Rex that stands in the museum. Try heading to the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology for some truly fascinating views of human history, or the University’s Botanical Garden for a sensory experience seeing nearly 10,000 species of plants from across the globe. Whatever your choice, a trip to Berkeley’s natural history wonders is well worth the time.
9. U.S. Naval War College Museum
One of the many historic buildings on the Naval War College 27-acre campus located in Newport, Rhode Island, the U.S Naval War College Museum displays the legacy of naval warfare in various interesting exhibits. The evolutionary development of war at sea and the heritage of the Navy in the region, specifically Narragansett Bay where the museum rests, are the fundamental themes. The museum also hosts special exhibits to coincide with the college’s curriculum. Open to the public year-round , visit the historical U.S. Naval War College Museum and find out the historical reason it is also called the Little Poorhouse.
8. Connecticut State Museum of Natural History – University of Connecticut
The Connecticut State Museum of Natural History was established in 1985 by an act of the Connecticut State Legislature. Located on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, this museum has an extensive anthropological collection and a biological collection containing hundreds of thousands specimens including birds, fossils, plants, fish, mammals and more. The Connecticut State Museum of History has one-of-a-kind artifacts documenting over 11,000 years of Connecticut’s past. While visiting the museum, be sure to check out the permanent exhibit Human’s Nature: Looking Closer at the Relationships between People and the Environment.
7. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
One of the greatest archaeology and anthropology museums in the United States, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology stands in not only one of the architectural jewels of the University of Pennsylvania, but in Philadelphia itself. One of the lesser-known attractions in Philadelphia, a city with some of the greatest museums in the world, the Museum has a particularly profound ethnographic and archaeological collection related to African peoples. Centered around a 13-ton statue of the Sphinx dating to 1200 B.C., the museum’s Egyptian collection specializes in preserving some of the most remarkable Egyptian artifacts in the world. But the collection doesn’t stop at Ancient Egypt, and spans a truly breathtaking variety of cultures and periods, from that of Rome to China, to South America and Mesoamerica, to the history of human evolution over periods of tens of thousands of years.
6. Florida Museum of Natural History – University of Florida
For museum buffs looking for fun in the sun, few locations have more to offer than Florida for its many weekend getaways, restaurants, and great museums. With its family-friendly atmosphere and great location in the Sunshine State, the Florida Museum of Natural History is particularly a winner for families on vacation as well as Florida residents. Kids will love exhibits on animals, with the museum’s holdings on butterflies being a particularly popular draw. Open seven days a week, and close to Orlando and Tampa and places like the Walt Disney World Resort, the museum is a great pit stop for either a day visit or as a stop on a Florida adventure. In fact, because Florida weather is so warm, the museum has a unique set of outdoor areas for teaching children and other guests about the natural world. With several trails built to show the wonder of various ecosystems, as well as a butterfly and wildflower garden specially built for visitors, the museum is surely one of the most fascinating natural history centers in the world, and a delight for people of all ages and backgrounds.
5. Institute of Contemporary Art
Originally founded as The Boston Museum of Modern Art in 1936, this historic organization was renamed the Institute of Contemporary Art in 1948. Since then, the museum has focused on presenting exceptional contemporary art in all forms of media, from art exhibitions to music and performance. Features of the Institute of Contemporary Art include the Momentum series, focusing on the work of emerging artists, the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater, hosting composers, artists and musicians from around the world and the West Gallery presenting critically acclaimed solo and group exhibitions. The Institute also offers many adult and family programs to stimulate interest in national and international contemporary artists.
4. St. Louis University Museum of Art
The St. Louis University Museum of Art is dedicated to its Jesuit heritage, values, and traditions by interpreting beauty and art and the presence of God in all things. When you enter the lobby of this museum, you will be greeted by Andy Warhol’s Flowers and an image featuring Urban Francis. The second floor has the Cartier Gallery and series of modern and contemporary art. The Collection of the Western Jesuit Missions fills the entire third floor and on the fourth floor is the John and Ann MacLennan Collection of Asian Decorative Arts, featuring elements of Treasured Jade. Impressive and historic, this collection features ancient bronze and beautiful ceramics from more than 3,500 years ago.
3. Weisman Art Museum – University of Minnesota
A jewel in the charming state of Minnesota, the Weisman is a place to see some of the great works from ancient Greek pottery to the most cutting-edge pieces of modern American art. One of the top museums in the mid-western US, the 8,100 square foot work of art opened in 2011. Weisman has a number of amazing permanent exhibits including a fantastic American Modernism collection and one of the top Korean Furniture exhibits. The Weisman also takes pride in its ‘Public Art on Campus’ project. By hosting one of the countries most diverse and unique programs, the campus is flooded with over 30 various art forms in campus hallways, courtyards and various other locations on campus. These exclusive pieces range in their form, including some interactive pieces on campus.
2. Yale University Peabody Museum
Like Harvard’s Natural History Museum, the Yale Peabody Museum is a place that should be visited by all science fans at some point during their lives. Its Incan artifact section is particularly respected, and the museum’s collection of fossils is nearly unprecedented. With roots stemming from collections developed by Yale scientists in the 18th Century, the museum has it all for even the most seasoned natural history buff. For visitors with children, the exhibits on dinosaurs will be an amazing experience; the Peabody’s reconstruction of an Apatosaurus is a legendary part of its holdings. If the history of science is of interest, the exhibits created by generations of Yale’s top natural historians will act as a future historian’s dream come true.
1. Harvard University Museum of Natural History
With its stunning collection of materials ranging from beautiful glass flowers to Mesoamerican sculptures, remnants of animals like the giant sloth, rare gems that seem to shimmer in the light beneath the viewer’s gaze, and exhibits focused on adventurous archaeological digs, the Harvard Museum of Natural History is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating museums in the United States. With collections culled from some of the most prominent archaeological digs in US history, the museum is a veritable wonderland of fascinating information and glimpses into human culture.
Tucked away on a quiet street in Cambridge, Massachusetts behind the bustle of Harvard Square, the Neo-Gothic spires of Memorial Hall, and the tall steel and glass buildings of the Harvard Science Center, the Natural History Museum seems worlds away from a contemporary age. For visitors with little ones, the good news is that the museum is one of the most child-friendly institutions in the United States, with special lectures for young visitors. The long halls of animal exhibits, and impressive collection of fossils, will be illuminating to young learners, and might even prepare them for a career in natural history.