Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum (UMZM)

Welcome to the Zoological Museum

The Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum (UMZM) is a natural history museum located at the University of Montana. UMZM is the largest zoological collection in Montana and serves as the principal repository for important bird and mammal state records. The museum provides important resources for research, teaching, and educational outreach.

UMZM contains over 22,500 specimens of birds and mammals. This includes excellent representation of vertebrate biodiversity in the Northern Rocky Mountains, as well as unique special collections from around the world. In addition to study skins and skeletal material, the museum has a growing number of tissues, parasites, photographs and other materials.


UMZM was started in the 1897 with the arrival of the first biology professor hired at University of Montana, Dr. Morton Elrod. The oldest modern specimens in the collection were part of Dr. Elrod’s original Ornithology teaching collection dating back to 1880.

The museum grew rapidly in the 20th century, with much of the success due to Dr. Philip L. Wright, who became curator in 1939. Dr. Wright contributed specimens to the museum via his active research program, by providing field experiences for UM students, and through his meticulous documentation of bird and mammal biodiversity in Montana. In recognition of his extraordinary dedication to the growth and use of these collections, the museum was named after Dr. Wright in 1997.

Other significant contributors to UMZM include mammalogist Robert S. Hoffmann, later Secretary of the Smithsonian National Museum; bear biologists John and Frank Craighead; mammalogist Bart O’Gara; mammalogist Kerry R. Foresman, author of The Mammals of Montana; and many other students, staff, and faculty through the years.

The UMZM underwent a major renovation in 2018-2020, funded by the National Science Foundation as part of their program for Collections in Support of Biological Research. In addition to NSF, we thank the Friends of the Philip. L Wright Museum, the Division of Biological Sciences, and the entire University of Montana community for their support and enthusiasm for the Museum's next phase of use and growth.

phil wright working 1964