History of the Collection

The University of Michigan’s art collection is among the oldest in the nation in university hands. In 1856, years before the great civic art museums in Detroit, Toledo, or Chicago were founded, U-M students and the general public had free access to an art gallery on campus. Today UMMA’s collections include more than 20,000 objects from WesternAsian, and African traditions as well as Modern & Contemporary art.

UMMA’s collections are particularly strong in European art of the Renaissance period to the 19th century, Chinese and Japanese art from antiquity to the 19th century, African art of the 19th and 20th centuries, and American art from the 19th century to the present. Works by Whistler and Picasso, Chinese and Japanese paintings and ceramics, and sculpture from central Africa are among the finest in North America. 

UMMA’s holdings allow for developing installations that highlight key artists and movements, underscore connections between specific cultural moments, philosophical investigations and intellectual and scientific discoveries, and evolving artistic movements.

UMMA was one of the first museums in the U.S. to digitize its collections, allowing it to transcend the traditional barrier of physical location and to afford complete access for research and teaching via the web. 

Today, UMMA continues to add to its permanent collection. Learn more about our recent acquisitions.