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. The UMZM is one of the largest zoological collection in the region, providing important resources for a variety of research, teaching, and educational outreach needs both within Montana and beyond.

While the UMZM focuses on birds and mammals of the northern Rocky Mountains, it is also home to a hundreds of scientifically and educationally valuable specimens from around the world. The museum has a growing number of tissues, parasites, photographs, and other materials for documenting and studying patterns of biodiversity across space and through time.

History

UMZM began 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 to1880.

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. The Friends of the Philip. L Wright Museum, the Division of Biological Sciences, and the entire University of Montana community have been integral in their support for the museum's next phase of use and growth.

Phil Wright working