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Our Collections

Peter Frank © Canadian Museum of Nature

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With more than 10 million specimens gathered over more than 150 years and covering four billion years of Earth history, the Canadian Museum of Nature keeps one of Canada's most valuable assets: our natural history collections.

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The Canadian Museum of Nature's 24 major science collections represent Botany, Vertebrates, Invertebrates and the Earth Sciences.

Our holdings also include a Library containing more than 43 000 books and 100 000 volumes of periodicals.

The museum's Archives keep a nature art collection, a photo collection and our institutional archives.

Putting the collections to work

Jeffrey Scovil © Canadian Museum of Nature

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Through the information gained from our collections, the Canadian Museum of Nature increases public awareness and knowledge of the natural world. Growing at a rate of about 40,000 specimens a year, the collections are a vital source of natural history information in a number of ways:

  • A fascinating historical and genetic record is preserved for generations to come.
  • By enabling researchers to identify, classify and compare new species, the collections are a valuable tool in mapping out the complex biodiversity of the natural world in which we live.
  • Playing a key reference role in research conducted by the museum's scientists and scientists from around the world, the collections also provide an up-to-date chronicle of current research on biological and geological issues important to Canadians.
  • The collections allow us to assess the flora and fauna of specific regions, and so help us to understand and respond to current environmental issues.
  • Our excellent specimens are frequently loaned to other museums and universities for study and display.

So where do we keep all this wonderful stuff?

Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

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The first place to go to see actual specimens from our collections on exhibit is in our museum in downtown Ottawa.

Don't miss our virtual collections online. See Our Amazing Treasures.

An innovative new facility now houses and protects the rest of the museum's collections, and is the workplace for most of the museum's science and administration staff. Our research and collections facility opened its doors in May 1997.

Arctic poppy, Papaver lapponicium CAN223288.

Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

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Arctic poppy
Papaver lapponicium
catalogue: CAN223288

 
 

 

You can access our collections!

Scientific researchers, professionals, educators, artists, museums, members of the public and academia, and government employees are welcome to enquire about gaining access to our collections. Some basic catalogue data is available online for several of our collections.

Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

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Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

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Multiple Specimens

Ever wonder why natural history museums keep so many specimens of the same type in their collections? In order to have a complete reference library of nature, there needs to be a record of all variations. Therefore, flora and fauna specimens of different sexes, ages, seasons and regions are collected and preserved.