collections

Collections

The collections at the Virginia Museum of Natural History continue to grow, in keeping with the mission and purposes of the Museum: "to interpret Virginia's natural heritage within a global context in ways that are relevant to all the citizens of the Commonwealth, . . . to preserve elements of natural history, to serve as a permanent repository for specimens, especially those of Virginia origin, and to make the natural history material and its data accessible to researchers and the public."

The collections provide the basis for both in-house research and research that extends nationally and internationally.

"Natural History collections are very important to our understanding of the world around us. When specimens are well cared for and well documented, they can provide a wealth of information to researchers in such areas as climate change, biodiversity, evolution, etc. The most important parts of a natural history collection are its type specimens, which are those specimens that were used to describe and name a species and are considered to be the standard representation of that species. When researchers find what they believe to be new species, they can compare them to the type specimens of similar species in order to ensure that the find is truly something that hasn't been described before."

-Haley Cartmell, collections manager at VMNH.

VMNH Collections Quick Facts
  • The Virginia Museum of Natural History has over 10 million specimens in its collections.
  • The VMNH collections include specimens in the areas of Archaeology, Bryozoans, Earth Science, Amphibians and Reptiles, Recent Invertebrates, Invertebrate Fossils, Birds, Mammals, Frozen Tissues, Plant Fossils, and Vertebrate Fossils.
  • The VMNH collections include 173 type specimens.
  • VMNH staff are directly responsible for the naming of 520 species new to science.
  • At just 27 years old, VMNH is a youngster among natural history museums, so these already impressive statistics will only grow over time.

Collection Areas

(For more information about the museum collections, please contact Jill Harris, Registrar, at jill.harris@vmnh.virginia.gov.)

Archaeology

Bryozoans

  • Approximately 200 species and about 5,000 cataloged specimens
  • Species named: 59
  • Genera named: 8
  • Higher taxa: 4 families
  • Holotypes in the collections: 4
  • Paratypes in the collections: 15
  • Download the bryozoans collection database (Last updated: 09/26/2014)

Earth Science

Exhibits and Education

  • More than 3,000 items, 1,500 slides, and more than 300 taxidermy mounts

Amphibians and Reptiles

Recent Invertebrates

  • More than 1,500,000 specimens
  • New species: about 405
  • New genera: about 200
  • Higher taxa: about 40 tribes, 25 subfamilies, seven families
  • Holotypes in VMNH: about 150 (mostly millipeds, a few insects (Plecoptera, Heteroptera)
  • Paratypes in VMNH: for about 400 species (more individual specimens), mostly millipeds but also insects, spiders, et alia
  • Download the recent invertebrates collection database (Last updated: 09/26/2014)

Invertebrate Fossils

Birds

Mammals

Frozen Tissues

  • More than 8,800 samples representing more than 5,500 individuals

Plant Fossils

Vertebrate Fossils

  • More than 5,000 items and 955 unprocessed lots
  • Species named (author or coauthor): Eobalaenoptera harrisoni, Squalodon whitmorei, Mecistotrachelos apeoros
  • Genera named (author or coauthor): Eobalaenoptera, Mecistotrachelos
  • Types in the Vertebrate Paleontology collection:Eobalaneoptera harrisoni, Mecistotrachelos apeoros (holotype and paratype-only two specimens known), Agnosphitys cromhallensis (holotype and paratypes, and all other known specimens), Pannaulika triassica (also the genotype), Fraxinopsis aquilonaris (holotype and paratype), Triassothrips virginicus (holotype, 3 paratypes, all other known specimens; also geotype and basis for Family Triassothripidae), Metarchilimonia krzeminskorum (holotype, paratype; also genotype), Metarchilimonia solita (holotype), Triassopsychoda olseni (holotype; genotype), Yalea rectimedia (holotype), Virginiptera certa (holotype, paratype; also genotype), Virginiptera similis (holotype, paratype), Virginiptera lativentra (holotype), Brachyrhyphus distortus (holotype; also genotype), Crosaphis virginiensis (holotype), Prosechamyia trimedia (holotype; also genotype and basis for Family Prosechamyiidae), Prosechamyia dimedia (holotype), Argyrarachne solitus (holotype; also genotype)
  • Access the vertebrate fossils collection database 
    ***Please note:  this database cannot be accessed with newer versions of Internet Explorer (IE 10 and IE 11).  If you are running a newer version of Internet Explorer, please access the database through Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.***
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