The Central Washington University Museum of Culture and Environment was established in 1970. At that time, it was known as the Museum of Man and strived to represent world cultures from its location on the fourth floor of Barge Hall. The Museum of Man was founded by then Anthropology Department Chair, Dr. Marco Bicchieri. The University soon entrusted the new Museum with the care of donations received as early as 1952, notably the Walker collection. Over the next 30 years, the Museum would acquire more than 9000 objects from cultures across the globe.
With the addition of a Museum, the Anthropology Department officially changed its name to the Department of Anthropology and Museum of Man. In 1972, the Museum Studies program was established as part of the department. Students involved in the Museum Studies program played a vital role in the day-to-day life of the early museum and continue to do so today. The importance of the program is reflected in the current name of the department: the Department of Anthropology and Museum Studies.
The Museum of Man was an important part of the department through the late-1970s when staffing and budgetary constraints led to its closure. The Department of Anthropology Museum was revived in the early 1980s under the leadership of John Alsoszatai-Petheo and Anne Denman. It was revived as the Department of Anthropology Museum in room 136 of Farrell Hall where students and faculty constructed exhibits on the history of Central Washington and the Pacific Northwest. Staffing, time, and budgetary constraints again led to the eventual closure of the second incarnation of the Museum by the late 1980s.
Although the Museum no longer had an exhibit space in Farrell Hall, it remained active. Small exhibits were installed in Barge Hall and in Farrell Hall. Students continued work on the collections through courses and internships. In the early 2000s, Martha Duskin-Smith and emeritus professor William Smith began the process of improving collections storage and organizing new exhibits in spaces around campus. This work served as a catalyst for the Museum.
In the Fall of 2006, work to establish a new museum with a permanent home in the renovated Dean Hall began in earnest; department faculty committees began meeting regularly to update the museum's mission, governance, staffing, and operations to create the foundation for a museum which will create bridges between the campus and the community, and which will explore the ways in which the environment influences people and people affect the environment.
The Museum of Culture and Environment moved into its new facilities on the first floor of the newly remodeled Dean Hall in 2009. In September, 2009, the Museum opened to the public and has been developing and hosting exciting and thought provoking exhibits since that time.