When AMUM opened in 1981, it went by the name University Gallery. At that time its mission was to host temporary exhibitions. Over the years AMUM acquired the permanent collections it houses today. In 1994 Memphis State University became the University of Memphis and the University Gallery Board voted to commemorate this change with one of its own—a name change that reflects our transition to a collecting institution.

Today, AMUM continues to host temporary exhibitions of visual art and culture, alongside items from the museum's own collections. AMUM has two permanent galleries dedicated to the exhibition of Egyptian antiquities and African art. The museum's extensive collection of prints and drawings includes several strengths: one of the most complete assemblages of the works of Samuel H. Crone, drawings and lithographs by Carroll Cloar, Beth Van Hoesen's preparatory drawings and prints, and Andy Warhol's polaroids, prints and silk screens.

AMUM is not just a museum, it is also a resource and laboratory for the study, interpretation, and presentation of the visual arts and the dissemination of artistic scholarly research. Students and scholars work with art, objects and archival materials from our diverse collections to develop exhibitions, educational programs, and publications. AMUM's study collections provide students in the Museum Studies Certificate Program with unique, hands-on experience in preparation for careers in museum collections management.