The Grand Rapids Public Museum has been collecting significant artifacts and specimens since its founding in 1854. The majority of the Collections were donated by the people of West Michigan to be used by the GRPM to help fulfill its mission of education and inspiration through broad public accessibility. The Collection contains over 250,000 artifacts and specimens and is the second largest museum collection in Michigan.
The Collections are divided into three focus areas: Science, Culture and History. The GRPM’s collecting practices are a reflection of global trends in museums. Most of the natural science specimens date to the nineteenth century, when the GRPM was known as the Grand Rapids Lyceum of Natural History. An interest in world cultures heightened at the turn of the twentieth century. This inspired collecting that was spurred on by ethnographic exhibitions such as the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The interest in the GRPM’s collecting of local West Michigan history can be traced to the American bicentennial in 1976.