Library—M.S.U. Museum (c. 1924)
M.S.U. Museum, formerly the Library. North façade, with the original main entrance, viewed from the “Sacred Space,” August 2006. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.
The student body of the Michigan Agricultural College grew rapidly in the first years of the twentieth century. From an enrollment totalling 652 students in 1900, the College had more than 1,700 in 1911.[McCristal, pp. 43, 53] The main lecture hall in College Hall had become far too small for seminars. Meanwhile, although the College library’s growth “had not kept pace with enrollment, acquisition had so outrun space that by 1915 one-half the volumes were stored in basements and attics of other buildings.” The old Library–Museum was also judged to be quite “flammable, posing a serious hazard for a valued collection.”[Kuhn, p. 215]
In 1913 the Board of Agriculture asked for funds to build a combination library and auditorium. The state Legislature appropriated the needed funds, but Governor Chase S. Osborn vetoed. Construction of a new library was thus stalled for several years.[Kuhn, p. 215]
Finally, in 1922 the cornerstone was laid for a new library building on the hilltop site of Williams Hall, which had burned to the ground three years earlier. By this time the College holdings counted some 50,000 volumes. The building was designed to hold a quarter of a million books, “although the landscape architects warned that the stacks would prove inadequate ‘in the course of a generation or two,’” a prophesy that came to be true. In addition to the storage spaces and “ample” reading rooms, the building housed the President’s office (who at that time was Kenyon L. Butterfield), the natural history museum, and a lecture hall for seminars.[Kuhn, pp. 300–301] Built at cost of $460,000, the library was completed about 1924.*[Physical Plant Data Book, p. 24] The main entrance was on the north side of the building, facing the Circle Drive, although this would soon change when the drive was re-routed.
Between 1937 and 1940, many of the Library’s secondary functions were moved to other locations. Morrill Hall became an academic building in 1937, allowing several departments to move there. The President’s office was moved back to the Library–Museum in 1938, occupying the zoology department’s former rooms and thereby making that building the Administration Building for the next thirty years. The education department, as well as offices for the Wolverine yearbook and the Spartan magazine, also vacated the Library. Then, “when museum-director Joseph P. Stack transferred his collections of birds and mammals, guns and skeletons, and the Bolivian mummy to the Auditorium in 1940, the library building for the first time in its sixteen years was devoted exclusively to its primary purpose.”[Kuhn, pp. 366, 391. McCristal, p. 77]
Even this newfound elbow room was short-lived. By the early 1950s the former Chemical Laboratory had been taken over as a library annex, and in 1955 a new Main Library was completed. During a three-month period from January to April 1956, the migration of some 765,000 books to the new library took place, “timed so that no book was out of circulation more than thirty minutes.”[McCristal, p. 121] The following year, the old library was renovated to house the museum collections. The top floor was expanded by the addition of an International style metal-and-glass dormer to the south façade. Today the building continues to be the home of the M.S.U. Museum.[Stanford, p. 53]
M.S.U. Museum, south façade with current main entrance, showing the top-floor addition of 1957. August 2006. Photo Credit: Kevin S. Forsyth.