Originally intended to be a garden for the Botany Department, the land was later found unsuitable for herbaceous plants. In 1916, the Botany Department moved its garden to a site on Packard Road, and the Nichols land was turned over to the Department of Landscape Design for development as an arboretum.
Today, the Nichols Arboretum consists of 123 acres, and includes notable collections of plants native to Michigan, as well as from around the world. It also includes an educational facility in the Burnham house, which was moved to the Arboretum grounds in 1998, where it became the James D. Reader, Jr. Urban Environmental Education Center.
In 2004, Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum were united as a single independent unit of the University of Michigan. A separate record group for Matthaei Botanical Gardens is available at the Bentley Historical Library.
Further information can be found in the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum collection, which covers the records of the units after they combined.