The Kelsey Museum is the brainchild of Francis W. Kelsey, professor of Latin at the University of Michigan from 1889 to 1927. Kelsey pursued an active program of collecting antiquities for use in teaching and launched the first university-sponsored archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions in 1924. Most of the artifacts in the Kelsey Museum come from excavations carried out in Egypt and Iraq in the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1928, shortly after Kelsey’s death, the Museum of Classical Archaeology was installed in Newberry Hall on State Street. It was renamed in honor of Professor Kelsey in 1953 and enlarged with the construction of the William Upjohn Exhibit Wing in 2009. In addition to conserving and exhibiting its collections, the Museum still sponsors field projects in countries around the Mediterranean (although the artifacts recovered in those excavations now all remain in their countries of origin), and it plays a vital role in undergraduate and graduate teaching and research.