The History of the Collections

The Museum is the result of a merger of three museums that were founded together with the University of Berlin "Unter den Linden" in 1810:

• The Anatomical-Zootomical Museum
• The Mineralogical Museum (from 1814)
• The Zoological Museum

The collections by Count Johann Centurius von Hoffmannsegg and Siberian explorer Peter Simon Pallas became the foundation of the Zoological Collections. The Mineralogical Museum was the successor of the Royal Mineral Cabinet, which housed the minerals and palaeontological finds collected by Freiherr von Schlotheim, Leopold von Buch and Alexander von Humboldt.

Erection of the Museum für Naturkunde
Around 1880, the collections took up two thirds of the main building of the University. Five years earlier, the contents of the Zoological Museum alone were estimated at more than half a million items. A collection of this size was confusing for scientists as well as for visitors. It was therefore decided to build a dedicated Natural History Museum, which was to unite the three museums under one roof. The Invalidenstraße building was inaugurated by Kaiser Wilhelm the Second December 2nd 1889.

Expeditions make the Collections grow further
The collections expanded considerably through the yields of expeditions, donations and purchases. The most important research expeditions carried out between 1875 and 1910 include the Gazelle Expedition, the Valdivia Deep Sea Expedition and the Tendaguru Expedition to East Africa (now Tanzania). The latter alone yielded 250 tonnes of fossil dinosaur bones that were shipped to Berlin. Transporting, recording and investigating the enormous expedition yields were quite a challenge. Even after the period of expeditions, the collections continued to grow steadily. They provide now the material for interdisciplinary research at the Museum, an invaluable archive of the history of life and the planet Earth.

Last update: 12.04.2011