University 101: From art to zoology: A guide to the U of A Museums

The University of Alberta can be a complicated entity with many moving parts. University 101 exists to assist the campus community to better understand who does what and how things get done at the U of A.

For 99 years, the University of Alberta has been building one of Canada’s largest museum holdings, with 28 collections in 11 departments dispersed in 120 locations across the north and south campuses, which collectively house 17 million objects. Covering numerous disciplines in human and natural science, this distributed museum model is supported by a central team of museum experts with each museum collection.

While many collections are accessed regularly by researchers, students and the community, the U of A Museums are working towards a centralized curatorial research facility to enhance collaboration, facilitate improved access, encourage further interdisciplinary studies and exhibit collections-based research.

The earliest collecting on campus began in the geology department shortly after the university was founded in 1908. Non-geological specimens and artifacts were subsequently transferred to the appropriate departments. For more information, go to www.museums.ualberta.ca

Fast facts about U of A Museums

  • The University of Alberta Museums are a designated Category A institution, able to acquire cultural property as certified by the Canadian Cultural Property and Export Review Board. Some of the cultural property acquired by the U of A Museums includes the Mactaggart Art Collection, the Tagish Lake meteorite, the Rosenberg Quilt Collection and a narwhal tusk.
  • The Friends of the University of Alberta Museums is a non-profit society, founded in 1984 to support museum activities on campus. Membership is open to all students, staff and community members.
  • The Muse Project is a curriculum-linked initiative for kindergarten to Grade 12, developed to provide primary-source object-based learning activities for school-aged children. This is one of many outreach activities using museum collections.
  • Science Sunday for Kids is one of the most popular public programs offered by the U of A Museums, which runs the first Sunday of March.
  • Thanks to an extensive digitization project, many of the records of U of A museum collections are web-accessible to researchers, students and the public anywhere in the world.