History of the collections

The first natural history collections of the 18th century were results of the desire to collect, especially rare or strange objects. These were the beginnings of later museums of natural history. Although the modern museums are no such „horror shows“ anymore, their collections are still an essential property. The new and modern collections are the main characteristics that distinguish a museum from other exhibition institutions.

Natural history collections are treasure vaults. Usually they go unnoticed by the visitors, and only on special occasions the collections they are opened to the general public. Nevertheless, it is the collections that establish the national and international reputation of a museum.

The importance of natural history collections was once again shown very impressively on the UN-conference of Rio de Janeiro in 1992 with the worldwide call for registration and preservation of the global biodiversity.

Today natural history collections are more than an archive of dusty specimens. Modern methods of analysis, especially genetics, are used. In well documented collections it is now possible to obtain informations in unexpected abundance. In such collections the biological researcher finds answers about origin, phylogeny, ontogeny, and relationships or other characteristics of species. Collections can document former distribution limits, first records of spreading and many other subjects.

Property entails obligations! This term is true especially for scientific collections. A museum has an ethical and a legal duty to preserve the collections. A collector has deposited his treasures (often a result of his whole life’s work) in the museum in deep trust of competent cultivation, further  utilization and of permanence of „a secure place“. Today the laws allow - with only few limited exceptions - the deposition of dead or collected organisms exclusively into a museum’s collection. Our museum is fully aware of its heavy responsibility.

Growth of the collections means not only added value. Much higher than the remarkable material value is the scientific value, which can not be measured in Euros. To utilize and increase this value, the collections are open for scientists from all over the world.

Collections of the Naturkundemuseums Erfurt