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History makes history

New endowed curator established at MSU museum

The Berryman MSU Museum Curator of History Endowment established by Julie Avery, Stephen Stier and Val Berryman with a $1.9 million gift-- the largest in the museum's history-- will create a new curator position. Berryman, pictured here with a stere

 The Michigan State University Museum will use a $1.9 million gift – the largest in the museum’s history – to establish its first endowed curatorship.

   The Berryman MSU Museum Curator of History Endowment established by Julie Avery, Stephen Stier and Val Berryman will create a new curator position for the museum’s historical collections. Berryman died in January after serving nearly 50 years as curator of history for the MSU Museum, Michigan’s leading public natural and cultural history museum. Because his estate gift of $1.2 million has been realized, the fund has been created and eventually will be added to through the estate plans of Avery and Stier.

   “This is a fantastic gift that will ensure the museum’s historical programs are strong and vibrant into the future,” says Gary Morgan, director of the MSU Museum. “There is no better way for Val’s name to be remembered.”

   Julie Avery recently retired from the museum, where she held several positions: assistant curator of history, curator of rural life and culture, education director, and acting museum director. Steve Stier has held a research associate position with the history and folk arts units of the museum since 1995, focusing mainly on traditional building trades.

   Julie and Steve’s passion about history led to conversations with Val Berryman about establishing a new endowed curator position. This will foster a study of history and interpretation through museum exhibitions and programs, helping society to shape its future.

   “The past must be understood before we can understand the future,” notes Steve. “When curators study and interpret man-made things, the objects tell a story of innovation and change,” Julie adds.

   “Val Berryman was instrumental in developing the museum’s historical collections which are featured in museum exhibitions, lent to other institutions, and used in the research of students, faculty and visiting scholars,” Morgan says. “He also presented numerous public programs and worked as a professional resource for museum and historical societies across the state.”

   “Val had a way of communicating a connection between the past and the future through his focus was on collected artifacts. He was able to interpret the importance of those objects for the future,” comments Stier. “Val collected objects that were treasures and that were examples of everyday life, and through his work, he created opportunities for others to learn from and understand the past and its relevance to today,” adds Avery.

   The museum announced the Berryman endowment on March 28 during the official opening of Berryman’s final exhibition at the MSU Museum, “Adventures in Time and the 3rd Dimension: Through the Stereoscope.” The exhibit features stereoviews and artifacts that Val collected for the museum as well as from his personal collection. The exhibit explores the history of 3D photography, technology, pop culture and future directions.

   It is anticipated the new endowed curatorial position will come into being within the next decade. This new endowment is the third for the museum’s historical collections. In 2012, an anonymous donor established an endowment through a planned gift to provide support for the purchase of museum objects for the cultural history collection. In 2002, Avery and Stier established the “Avery, Kimes and Stier History Endowment,” honoring Julie’s parents, to support history projects and activities.

   The MSU Museum is the science and culture museum at Michigan State University and the state’s first Smithsonian Institution affiliate. The MSU Museum features three floors with 15 galleries and changing spaces for collections, research, new and recent acquisitions, MSU faculty and student work, and traveling exhibitions. Programs and partnerships across campus draw on the museum for research, teaching, digital humanities and distance learning technology to investigate topics ranging from the Great Lakes environment, art-science-creativity intersections, traditional-arts expressions, and informal learning methods.

   Julie and Steve invite contributions to this endowment.

For more information on making a gift to the MSU Museum, contactDirector of Development Annie James at or call 517-884-1065.