Historic Wet Collection at the Museum of Natural History

Funded through the KUR – Programme for the Conservation of Moveable Cultural Assets

The Museum of Natural History in Berlin owns a collection of approximately 260,000 animal specimens preserved in alcohol. Not only is it an important source of scientific documentation, but also a valuable cultural asset, gathered over several centuries by famous natural researchers and collectors on many daring expeditions.
These “wet collections” were in grave danger of being lost as many of the jar seals were broken and highly fluctuating temperatures had caused the alcohol to evaporate. Many of the original labels had also begun to disintegrate.
This KUR project immediately began to preserve this collection, the specimen jars and their primary documentation (labels and scientific papers). The project developed and applied new methods for optimally storing collections of this kind, as museums around the world currently face similar problems.
The entire wet collection is now stored in the museum’s newly rebuilt east wing which was destroyed during the war. Arranged by type in an air-conditioned exhibition hall, the collection is now open for public viewing. An information terminal in the exhibition area provides visitors with details about the project and the results of the conservation measures.

Project administrator:
Museum of Natural History, Berlin

Cooperative partners:
Berlin Medical Historical Museum, Berlin Charité
Working group at the Synthesys Network Activity C Collections Standards
Bavarian State Collection of Zoology, Munich
Senckenberg Natural History Society, Frankfurt am Main


Dr. Birger Neuhaus

Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Invalidenstraße 43

10115 Berlin

Tel.: +49 (0)30 20938525

www.naturkundemuseum-berlin.de (external link, opens in a new window)