The Natural History Museum (German: Naturhistorisches Museum) is a large natural history museum located in Vienna, Austria. The Natural History Museum in Vienna (NHM) is one of the most important museums in Austria with some 30 million collection objects and one of the largest museums in Austria. The museum’s website provides an overview in the form of a virtual tour.
The museum’s earliest collections of artifacts were begun over 250 years ago. Today, its collections on display cover 8,700 square metres. As of 2011, the museum houses approximately 30 million objects and the number is growing. Behind the scenes, collections comprising some 25 million specimens and artefacts are the essential basis for the work of over 60 staff scientists. Their main fields of research cover a wide range of topics from the origins of the Solar System and the evolution of animals and plants to human evolution, as well as prehistoric traditions and customs.
The museum is home to world-famous and unique objects, such as the 29,500-year-old Venus of Willendorf, the Steller’s sea cow that became extinct over 200 years ago, and enormous dinosaur skeletons. Further highlights in the 39 exhibit halls include the world’s largest and oldest public collection of meteorites, including the spectacular “Tissint” meteorite from Mars, as well as the new permanent anthropological exhibition on the origins and development of humans. However, time does not stand still. That is why on the occasion of the museum’s 125th anniversary a new Digital Planetarium has been opened, featuring fulldome projection technology that will give new visitors the chance to embark on fascinating virtual journeys in stunning scientific detail to the edge of the Milky Way galaxy or Saturn’s rings. The museum’s departments are home to around 60 scientists carrying out fundamental research in a wide range of fields related to earth sciences, life sciences and human sciences. This makes the museum an important public institution and one of the largest non-university research centers in Austria.
The museum is divided into the following departments, led by scientific directors:
Archive for Science History
Geological and Palaeontological Department
Department of karst and cave science
Mineralogical Petrographic Department
Department of Ecology
1. Zoological Division (Vertebrate) with molecular systematic examination site
2. Zoological department (insects) with major zoological preparation
3. Zoological Department (invertebrate animals)
The anthropology permanent exhibition was conceived from the ground up after the closure of the former “racial hall” in 1996 and opened in January 2013. It is devoted to the evolution of the hominids and the process of man’s emergence. In the rooms 14 and 15, two main themes are: the upright walk and the brain revolution. Starting from the next living relatives, the human monkeys, the development of the modern human Homo sapiens, adapted to different natural spaces, is presented with several paleoanthropological theme blocks up to the Neolithic period. The development is presented not only as a (pre-) historical and biological process, but also emphasizes cultural development as an essential component of the incarnation.
The collections originally originate to a large extent from their own expedition trips, but for decades already from a lively exchange traffic with international partnership institutions. The geographic focus of the collections is in Europe the territories of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Central Europe, as well as the entire Mediterranean area, in particular Greece and Turkey. The centers of the interest in the collection on the Asian continent are the Orient, the Caucasus and the area of Flora Iranica (Iranian highland and neighboring regions). From Africa collections are mainly from Tunisia, East and Central Africa as well as from the Cape area. Sampling core areas in South America are mainly Brazil, Argentina and Chile. The botanical department of the Natural History Museum in Vienna also preserves numerous documents from Australia and New Zealand.
Geological and Palaeontological Department:
In room 7 of the museum mainly the earth age is presented. One of the highlights of this space is, for example, the reconstructed, artificial carbon forest. In this, original and true models of animals that existed at that time (more than 300 million years ago) are to be found. These include, among others, giant lobes such as Meganeura. Also to be mentioned is the diorama of a reef from the Silur.
Department of karst and caves:
Today, the scientific department for karst and cave studies has existed at the Natural History Museum in Vienna and has historically returned to the former department for cave protection at the Federal Monument Office, which was placed under the responsibility of the NHM Vienna in 1979. The department is dedicated to the scientific exploration and protection of caves and karst areas. Caves are geological phenomena and valuable archives of nature and human history. Karst areas are specific landscape types, which are based on the solubility of rocks and contain caves and underground drainage systems. In addition to the scientific importance of this type of landscape, the karst areas have an immense importance for the drinking water supply of the population.
Mineralogical Petrographic Department:
The meteorite collection of the Natural History Museum is the oldest collection in the world (1778) and the largest collection of scholars, and is one of the largest in the world, with more than 7,000 inventoried pieces of historically and scientifically important meteorites. The museum director Christian Köberl is himself a renowned impact researcher. The curator of the meteorite collection is Franz Brandstätter. From February to November 2012, the Meteorite Hall (Hall V) was closed for a renovation and re-design. Since the reopening on November 14, 2012, around 1100 objects have been exhibited (previously about 2200), but much more information on the topic of general and individual exhibits is offered. In June 2013, the NHM received three additional samples of moon rock as a long-term loan.