University and college museums are fantastic resources for the students attending the schools that run and house them. Since these premiere attractions are also usually open to the public, they make great (and often cheap or free) places for the whole family to learn new things when making a campus visit. Here are the top ten university museums in the United States that you should experience when spending time in their home cities.
The Best College Museums
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1. Harvard Museum of Natural History - Harvard University
The Harvard Museum of Natural History is a great attraction for the whole family. Of particular note are the museum’s Glass Flowers and Sea Creatures in Glass collections. Both of these exhibits were commissioned from father and son team, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, and consist of accurate glass models of thousands of unique species.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History is located in Cambridge, MA at 26 Oxford St. It is open daily 9am-5pm. General admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-18. Student and seniors discounts are also available.
2. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology - University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is the largest university museum in the United States and is also among the best. The museum building is a compilation of seven different wings that were added intermittently from 1899 to 2004, making it an interesting structure itself. As you make your way through the museum, you will learn the stories of ancient civilizations from around the world. In Egypt, the present meets the past at In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies, which is a working conservation lab where you can watch conservators working on Egyptian artifacts right in front of you. If you are visiting with kids, make sure you stop by the very hands-on exhibit, Human Evolution: The First 200 Million Years.
The Penn Museum is located in Philadelphia, PA at 3260 South Street. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am-5pm, and until 8pm on the first Wednesday of the month. General admission is $15 and child/student admission is $10.
3. Florida Museum of Natural History - University of Florida
Florida’s official natural history museum has something for everyone, from its fossil collection that includes specimens from the largest shark that ever lived – the extinct Megalodon - to its Discovery Room that aims to engage even the museum’s smallest visitors with natural wonders. The museum also covers a wide spectrum of topics with its temporary exhibits from American colonial history to modern climate change research.
The Florida Museum of Natural History is located in Gainesville, FL at 3215 Hull Rd., Powell Hall. It is open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Monday through Saturday it is open 10am-5pm, and on Sunday 1pm-5pm. General admission is free for everyone, but you will have to pay for featured exhibits.
4. Lincoln Heritage Museum - Lincoln College
The Lincoln Heritage Museum is the site to visit for a complete immersion in the history of Abraham Lincoln and his legacy. You can personally tailor your experience, as the museum has different self-guided tour options depending on the ages and interest level of the visitors in your party. The Lincoln Heritage Museum is an ideal stop for history buffs, as the museum relies heavily on storytelling and first-person accounts of Lincoln’s life and influence.
The Lincoln Heritage Museum is located in Lincoln, IL at 1115 Nicholson Rd. It is open Monday through Friday 9am-4pm and Saturday 1pm-4pm. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-16.
5. Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive - University of California, Berkeley
This art and film museum is the best place for cinephiles to geek-out with its collection of more than 14,000 films and videos. The film archive’s contents ranges from Soviet Cinema to international animation, and is also home to the world’s largest collection of Japanese films outside of Japan. The Pacific Archive Theater hosts about 450 screenings annually. If you plan on visiting with the whole family, look out for special children-oriented exhibits such as 2014’s yearlong exhibition, Kids Club, which allowed kids to play and sculpt with 100 pounds of clay.
BAMPFA is located in Berkeley, CA. It is currently closed as it relocates to 2155 Center Street. It is scheduled to reopen at the end of January 2016.
6. The University of Mississippi Museum - University of Mississippi
The University of Mississippi Museum is especially known for its exhibitions showcasing the local culture of Mississippi and the southern region of the United States. For example, it features a permanent collection of Southern folk art. Also part of the museum is the historical landmark, Rowan Oak, which was Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Faulkner’s home. The UM Museum has regularly scheduled children’s programs so plan accordingly if you want to make sure your kids stay engaged, as well.
The UM Museum is located in Oxford, MS at University Avenue and 5th St. It is open Tuesday through Saturday 10am-6pm. General admission is free, but special exhibits are $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-17. Rowan Oak is open Tuesday through Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday 1pm-4pm. General admission is $5.
7. Smith College Museum of Art - Smith College
The Smith College Museum of Art has a permanent collection of more than 23,000 works of art, which span from the ancient world to modern art. With four floors of galleries, the assortment of art cannot be narrowed down to any particular culture or style. The Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs is open the first Friday of the month from 12pm-4pm and by appointment for student-curated exhibitions.
SCMA is located in Northampton, MA at 20 Elm Street at Bedford Terrace. It is open Tuesday through Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday 12pm-4pm. General admission is $5 for adults and free for children 18 and younger and for college students. The second Friday of each month it is open until 8pm and free to everyone from 4pm-8pm.
8. Weisman Art Museum - University of Minnesota
The sleek stainless steel and brick building that is the Weisman Art Museum is impressive in itself. In fact, it won architect, Frank Gehry, (who later went on to design the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles) the Progressive Architecture Design Award in 1991. Inside you will find an impressive collection of early twentieth-century American artwork including contributions from Georgia O’Keeffe. One of the most unique exhibits the museum offers is its traditional Korean furniture collection, which is the most complete collection outside of Asia. While this museum does offer school tours for all ages, it’s not recommended to visit on your own with young children who may not have the attention span for art appreciation.
WAM is located in Minneapolis, MN at 333 East River Road. It is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10am-5p, Wednesday 10am-8pm, and weekends 11am-5pm. Admission is always free.
9. Naval War College Museum - U.S. Naval War College
This museum, dedicated to the history of naval warfare, is situated in Founders Hall, which was the original site of the U.S. Naval War College and a National Historic Landmark. Operated by the US Navy, the museum’s permanent collection focuses on the naval heritage of the local area as well as the worldwide history of war at sea. Short-term exhibits seek to relate directly back to current college curriculums.
The Naval War College Museum is located in Newport, RI at Founders Hall, Building 10, Luce Ave. It is normally open year-round, but is closed for renovations until early January 2016.
10. Williams College Museum of Art - Williams College
The Williams College Museum of Art is home to more than 14,000 works of art that encompass a huge range of styles and cultures from Greco-Roman objects to African sculptures to photography. The museum possesses an especially impressive collection of American art beginning from the late 18th century. WCMA puts a special emphasis on enhancing the learning experience for Williams College students, but admission is always free to everyone.
WCMA is located in Williamstown, MA at 15 Lawrence Hall Drive, Suite 2. It is open daily 10am-5pm and until 8pm on Thursdays. From September through May it is closed on Wednesdays.
This article was written by Paula Ashlee Berg and edited by Lexi Perman.
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