History

Formation of the Harvard Museum of Natural History

The Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH) was established in 1998 as the public face of three research museums: the Harvard University Herbaria, the Mineralogical & Geological Museum, and the Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Harvard University Herbaria

The botanical collections at Harvard comprise specimens in the Gray Herbarium (2,000,000 specimens from around the world, with particular emphasis on North America), the Herbarium of the Arnold Arboretum (1,300,000 specimens, including those of cultivated origin), the Economic Herbarium of Oakes Ames (40,000 specimens), the Oakes Ames Orchid Herbarium (131,000 specimens), the New England Botanical Club Herbarium (350,000 specimens from the new England states) and the Farlow Herbarium (1,400,000 specimens of lichenized and non-lichenized fungi, bryophytes, and algae). Together with the Bailey-Wetmore Wood Collection, the Paleobotanical Collections, and the Botanical Museum Collection, the Herbaria have more than five million specimens, making the total collection one of the ten largest herbaria in the world and the world’s largest university owned herbarium.

Mineralogical & Geological Museum

The mineral collection is the oldest university mineral collection in the nation, begun in 1784. The Geological Museum was begun in 1901 and officially merged with the Mineralogical Museum in 1977. Today the mineral collections contain more than 100,000 specimens and rank among the world's finest. The rock and ore collection holds more than 200,000 specimens derived from faculty and student research. The meteorite collection contains a largely comprehensive group of meteorites, with nearly 600 distinct meteorites and about 1,500 specimens. The gemstone collection consists of more than 1,000 specimens with a special focus on New England gems.

Museum of Comparative Zoology

The Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) was founded in 1859 by an act of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The present-day MCZ contains over 21 million specimens in eleven divisions (Entomology, Herpetology, Ichthyology, Invertebrate Paleontology, Invertebrate Zoology, Malacology, Mammalogy, Marine Invertebrates, Ornithology, Vertebrate Paleontology, and the Ernst Mayr Library) that comprise one of the world's richest and most varied resources for studying the diversity of life. The museum serves as the primary repository for zoological specimens collected by past and present Harvard faculty-curators, students, staff, and associates conducting research around the world.