What Are Natural History Collections?

Natural history collections are an essential resource for scientists and researchers, providing a wealth of information about the natural world. These collections consist of specimens, such as plants, animals, and minerals, that have been collected and preserved for scientific study.

What Makes Up a Natural History Collection?

A natural history collection can include a wide range of specimens from different parts of the world. These specimens can be divided into several categories:

Plants: Herbaria are collections of preserved plant specimens that have been dried and pressed onto sheets of paper. These collections provide valuable information on the diversity and distribution of plant species.

Animals: Zoological collections can include a variety of animal specimens, including insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. These collections provide information on the anatomy, behavior, and ecology of these animals.

Minerals: Geological collections consist of rocks and minerals that have been collected from different parts of the world. These collections provide information on the composition and structure of the Earth’s crust.

The Importance of Natural History Collections

Natural history collections are an important resource for scientists in many fields. They provide a wealth of information on biodiversity, evolution, ecology, and biogeography. By studying these specimens in detail, scientists can gain insights into how species have evolved over time and how they are adapted to different environments.

But natural history collections are not just important for scientific research. They also play an important role in conservation efforts. By studying preserved specimens from endangered species or habitats that no longer exist in their original form, scientists can better understand how to protect these ecosystems for future generations.

The Challenges Facing Natural History Collections

Despite their importance, natural history collections face several challenges in today’s world. One major challenge is funding – maintaining these collections requires significant resources, including staff time and specialized equipment for preservation and storage.

Another challenge is the loss of biodiversity. As species go extinct or habitats are destroyed, natural history collections become even more valuable as a record of what once existed. However, collecting specimens can also have negative impacts on the environment, so it is important to balance the need for scientific study with the need to protect natural resources.


In conclusion, natural history collections are an essential resource for scientists and researchers studying the natural world. They provide valuable information on biodiversity, evolution, and ecology, and play an important role in conservation efforts. While these collections face several challenges, they remain a crucial tool for understanding and protecting our planet’s rich diversity of life.