The University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge is one of the country’s largest and most important natural history museums, with over two million modern and fossil specimens covering the whole of the animal kingdom, with a global reach and through all geological periods where animals were found.
Embedded within the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, and now physically sharing a building with the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (the world’s largest coming-together of international environmental NGOs, dedicated to helping to conserve biodiversity for future generations), a key strategic theme of the Museum is environmental conservation. Our collections and academic outputs lead and support on conservation research, and it is a principal theme in our interpretation and public and formal learning programmes. Our taxonomic and evolutionary research strands, explaining the origin of biodiversity and describing its distribution, are a significant complementary strength.
The Museum of Zoology started life as two separate collections: a University Museum of Comparative Anatomy (from 1814) and another collection accumulated by the Cambridge Philosophical Society (from 1819). In 1865 both of these collections were housed together and the Museum of Comparative Anatomy and Zoology was built.
Most of the collections were acquired through expeditions and bequests between 1865 and 1915, although the Museum continues to collect new material each year. Many expeditions brought back collections of insects, marine invertebrates from the Indian Ocean, fish and amphibians from Africa and mammals and birds from Southeast Asia and Australia. Famous scientists such as Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and William Bateson have all contributed to the two million-strong collection.
The 1865 building was demolished in 1965, to make way for a new building, designed by Philip Dowson, which opened in 1970 and was completed in 1974. The Museum closed to the public in 2013 to begin a major refurbishment, including the construction of a new glass entrance hall, within which hangs our most iconic specimen, a fin whale skeleton. The Museum reopened in June 2018, following the complete redevelopment of the galleries and the building of five new purpose-built climate-controlled stores.
All collections are accessible for use by visiting researchers, and we welcome collaboration.
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East of England