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The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture was built with money bequeathed to the University of Tennessee by Judge John and Ellen McClung Green of Knoxville as a memorial to Mrs. Green’s father, Frank H. McClung—a Knoxville merchant and descendant of James White, founder of Knoxville.

The museum was officially dedicated on June 1, 1963, but its history actually extends to an earlier date. On March 1, 2013, the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees elected to change the official name of the museum to the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture. The new name helps to more clearly define the types of collections found in the museum.