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Natural History Museum Vienna (NHMW)

Collections & Expertise

Founded more than 250 years ago NHMW is the principal institution for biodiversity research in Austria including departments of Zoology, Botany, Geology-Palaeontology, Mineralogy, Anthropology, Karst and Caves. The collections comprise more than 35 million specimens including more than 600,000 unique types.

Collections are especially strong and important for taxonomic work for the Central and South-East European area, the Balkan Peninsula (especially Albania, Bulgaria & Greece), Crete, the Iranian area north to the Caucausus, Australia and New Zealand. In other geographical areas the collections also have global importance for single taxonomic groups including: Brazil, Chile, South Africa, China and the Philippines. Plus, there is unique historical material dating back to 1690.

Department Collection highlights and staff expertise
Botany 5,500,000 specimens (inc.200,000 types)
Important collections include Algae; Fungi; Lichens; Hepaticae; Musci; Gramincae; Juncaceae; Orchidaceae.
Gobally significant collections from central Europe, Balkan Peninsula, esp. Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, South-west Asia (basic material for Flora Iranica), Northern, Eastern and South Africa, Central and South America, especially Brazil, Australia and New Zealand.
The Herbarium of the University of Vienna is closely connected with NHMW. and access to these collections is also offered.
Insecta More than 10,000,000 specimens including...
Lepidoptera -40,000 types; esp. Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan.
Coleoptera - 60,000 types; important historical collections: Staphylinidae – 500,000 specimens, (+ 100,000 Inserenda); Scolytidae; Carabidae; Anthicidae; 7,000,000 water beetle specimens preserved in alcohol and c. 300,000 mounted, many holotypes. 50,000 specimens are added annually, mostly from China, South-East Asia, South America and Australian region.
Hymenoptera and Zoocecidia: 10,000 types; special collections of Natterer in Brazil and material from the voyage of the frigate Novara
Diptera – 6,000 types
Hemiptera - several thousand types; especially Belostomatidae; Phymatidae; Auchenorrhyncha; american Heteroptera; Heteroptera. -contains over 50% of the Gerromorpha described all over the world, well represented Nepomorpha (ca. 70% of the Aphelocheiridae), more than 80% of the Helotrephidae.
Mineralogy 150,000 specimens. Strong in the territory of the former Austrian-Hungarian Empire and alpine regions. Newer acquisitions in worldwide alpine paragenesis, selected pegmatite paragenesis (e.g. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal)
New gems and ornamental and synthesised material
New meteorite finds and meteorite falls
Meteoritics, geochemistry and cosmochemistry, igneous and metamorphic petrology, gemology, speleology and cave mineralogy, economic mineralogy and the science of dusts from near (terrestrial) and far (cosmic)
Karst and Caves Unique speciality concentrating on Speleology, Karst morphology, Karsthydrogeology, mineral and thermal waters, Speleometerology – Speleoclimatology, Radon monitoring in caves and karst areas
Speleohistory, especially in the Alps, Carpartians and Dinarids
Anthropology C. 60,000 objects of skeletons, photos, x-ray photos, casts of palaeontological objects
Evolution of human skeleton based on morphology and function, demography of human populations in context with geography, climate, economy; reconstruction on living conditions of prehistoric human populations
Geology and palaeontology 10,000 specimens comprising plant fossils from former Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The major part derives from the Carboniferous, Triassic, Cretaceous and Tertiary. Types are included in Catalogue of Palaeontological Types in Austrian Collections
Palaeoecology; Palaeogeography; Palaeobiogeography; micromammals.
Vertebrates 900,000 vertebrates including...
Fish: 500,000 alcohol specimens, 1,500 skeletons, 2,000 mounted specimens. Type collection represents 2,000 taxa, 70% are catalogued
Herpetology: 200,000 alcohol specimens, 6,000 skeletons and mounted specimens. Types for 200 amphibian and 600 reptilian taxa.
Birds: 90,000 skins, 10,000 mounted specimens, 7,000 skeletons, 10,000 clutches, 1,000 nests. Skins: western Palaearctic, Brazil, New Zealand, parts of Africa, and the Near East.
Mammology: 70,000 objects with geographic focal points of South America, Turkey and Middle Europe
Archaeozoology: 350 skeletons and 1,300 skulls for osteological comparison. Scientific focal points: early history and pre-history of domestic animals and stock-farming. Adametz-Collection: skulls of old cattle races. Collection of archaeological complexes (mainly from Austria): over 500,000 dated objects
Invertebrates (non-insect) 900,000 specimens with more than 7,500 types.
Library c. 6,000 scientific journals
c. 200,000 books (including more than 50,000 historically valuable books)

Analytical Facilities

All the equipment necessary for taxonomic work is available, including; electron microscopes, microprobes, X-ray diffraction, photography studios, DNA labs and workstations for data-capture and sharing. The Chemosystematic Laboratory was established in 1992 and holds about 9,000 tissue or blood samples preserved in alcohol or frozen (-80°C). Zoological DNA laboratories are rapidly evolving and hold extracted material from collections available to Users. Combining traditional methods with state-of-the-art DNA techniques for systematic studies means molecular work is increasing apace at AT-TAF.

For a full list of the equipment that Users can apply to use, click here.

Research supported by the infrastructure

Based on the history of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy and Austria’s position as a neutral state NHMW maintained academic contacts with the countries of the former Eastern Block. There is a long history of reciprocal visits and collaborative projects which continues today. Based on this tradition NHMW holds much material from this area in its collections material which is not available in other museums outside the CIS-States.

Staff members of AT-TAF collaborate with Users on floras in regions all over the world: including Austria, Germany, Spain, Morocco, Ethiopia, plus several floras in the Neotropic Region. The staff are also expert in historical biogeography.

The zoological collections together with the expertise of the curators are unrivalled for many key groups. European collaborative projects include ongoing research on the Ephemeroptera of central Europe, the inventories of water beetles for Austria, Greece and Spain; the Neuropteridea of NW Europe (together with Bergen, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Sofia). On a broader international scale, notable projects include the inventories of the water beetles of China and the waterbugs of the Philippines or the contributions on the Staphylinidae of Myanmar.

Recent Highlights

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