I just came across this website about the history of the Graduate Library called the “Hatcher Showcase” featuring this tidbit of information:
“Reference room murals “The Arts of Peace” (west wall) and “The Arts of War” (east wall), by Gari Melchers, were originally painted for the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1892-93. In 1895, UM President Angell requested that the paintings be given to the University of Michigan. They were received in 1895 and were hung in University Hall in 1896. In 1918, when plans for a new library building were underway, it was decided that the murals would hang in the main reading room. The reference room, 50 feet high at the center of the barrel vaulted ceiling, was specially designed to accommodate the murals.”
The University Planner’s office also maintains a nice website on “outdoor Campus sculptures, artifacts and memorials,” if you really want to know the story on that object you walk by to class every day.