The museum, initiated in 1857, is one of the oldest museums in the Midwest and is accredited by the American Association of Museums. In 2001, the MSU Museum became the first museum in the state to receive Smithsonian affiliate status from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the world's largest museum and research complex, thereby giving the MSU Museum broader access to Smithsonian cultural and scientific resources.
Designated an anchor organization by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the museum is Michigan's leading public natural and cultural history museum.
The museum is a public steward for nearly a million objects and specimens of cultural and natural history from around the world.
It serves as a major state repository for the Department of Natural Resources (biological collections) and the Bureau of History (archaeological collections) and is the home of the Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a statewide program in partnership with Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
The Museum reaches a broad and diverse audience through strong, varied, and accessible collections, field- and collections-based research, public service and education programs, traveling exhibits, and innovative partnerships with Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust, and Michigan State University Extension (MSUE).
As Michigan's largest public natural and cultural history museum and the state's only land-grant university museum, Michigan State University Museum "is committed to understanding, interpreting, and respecting natural and cultural diversity through education, exhibitions, research, and the building and stewardship of collections that focus on Michigan and its relationship to the Great Lakes, and the world beyond."
Administratively at Michigan State University, the MSU Museum operates within the Office of the Provost, http://provost.msu.edu/ through the Office of University Outreach and Engagement, http://ntweb4.ais.msu.edu/. The MSU Museum also is closely aligned with core academic and outreach units - College of Arts & Letters http://www.cal.msu.edu/, College of Natural Science http://www.ns.msu.edu/, College of Social Science http://socialscience.msu.edu/, and MSU Extension http://www.msue.msu.edu/ -- with which it shares faculty appointments and coordinates collection maintenance and educational programs.
In addition, museum curators, researchers and public programmers work closely with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources http://www.canr.msu.edu/canrhome/, the College of Veterinary Medicine http://cvm.msu.edu/, the College of Education http://www.educ.msu.edu/, International Studies and Programs http://www.isp.msu.edu/ and other units on campus where its collections and resources intersect with teaching and research missions. A special Science Advisory Committee is comprised of representatives from the departments of anthropology http://www.ssc.msu.edu/~anp/, geography http://www.geo.msu.edu/, geological sciences http://www.glg.msu.edu/ and zoology http://zoology.msu.edu/.