The University of Michigan's Natural History collections were established in the mid-19th century and became significant with the donation of over 60,000 specimens by a world-traveling alumnus, Joseph Beal Steere, in the 1870s.
The current building was completed in 1928. In the early 20th century, the University Museum subdivided into four separate research museums: the Museums of Paleontology, Zoology, and Anthropological Archaeology, and the University Herbarium. The Museum of Natural History, devoted exclusively to the development of exhibits and educational programs, was officially created in 1956, although public displays had been offered for some 100 years at that point.
The Museum of Natural History was the recipient of the Kathleen Power Collaboration Award, given by Nonprofit Excellence at Work (NEW). The Museum was recognized for the Family Reading and Science Program that is coordinated with numerous libraries in local counties.