Natural History Museum Bern

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Natural History Museum Bern
Natural History Museum Bern Caruso.jpg
Main entrance to Museum Bernastrasse
place Bernastrasse 15
3005 Bern
Switzerland Coordinates: 46 ° 56 ′ 31.5 ″  N , 7 ° 26 ′ 56.1 ″  E ; CH1903:  600784  /  one hundred and ninety-eight thousand nine hundred and ninety-nineWorld icon
Art Natural History Museum
architect Krebs and Müller
opening 1832 (collection)
1936 (building)
Number of visitors (annually) 130,945 (2016)
operator Civic Community of Bern
management Christoph Beer
GLAM CH-000213
ISIL CH-000813-X
KGS 8541 + 637

The Natural History Museum Bern is a natural history museum in Bern . Along with the institutions from Basel and Geneva, it is one of the most important natural history museums in Switzerland. It is visited by up to 131,000 people annually (record number of visitors in 2016) and works closely with the University of Bern in teaching and research . The most famous objects in the house include the legendary rescue dog Barry , the giant crystals from Planggenstock and the collection of African animals by the big game hunter Bernhard von Wattenwyl . Its historical dioramas of native and African animals made the museum internationally known in the 20th century. The museum is also a research institution focusing on meteorite research, palaeontology , cynology , malacology , herpetology and arachnology .


The museum is owned by the civic community of Bern . The official founding year is 1832 , which makes it the oldest museum in Bern. It is located in a building that was opened on January 4, 1936 and has since been expanded several times at Bernastrasse 15 in Bern's Kirchenfeld district . The holdings were previously housed in a building built by Albert Lanz from 1878 to 1881 and demolished in 1936 at Hodlerstrasse 5 and even earlier in the library gallery of the old Bern university building.


The entire scientific collection of the Natural History Museum Bern amounts to about 6.5 million specimens, of which the invertebrates make up more than 91% with 5.5 million specimens. The importance of the exhibition and research collections lies primarily in the scientific value of the objects (high number of type specimens, original images and extensive series of numerous species) and in the focus on scientific, geographical and group-specific aspects.

  • Invertebrates: approx. 5.5 million objects
  • Earth sciences: approx. 445,000 objects
  • Vertebrates: approx. 83,000 objects


The individual groups of invertebrates include:

  • Snails: approx. 3 million objects
  • Butterflies: approx. 1 million objects
  • Beetle: approx. 600,000 objects

The entomological collection primarily comprises a dry collection with 2.5 million objects. It contains around 20,000 type copies (including paratypes). The focus is on the Lepidoptera (Palearctic, Asia, South America), Coleopteran (Palearctic) and Hymenoptera (Palearctic, South America).

The focus of the malacological collections is on the land and freshwater mollusks of Europe, and more broadly on the mollusks of the Palearctic. This mollusc collection is therefore probably the largest and certainly the best recorded in Switzerland. The collection includes around 3 million individual items. This includes over 4,700 type copies (including paratypes ). Most of the collection reached the museum through donations from private collectors, with the historical collection of Robert James Shuttleworth being the oldest, largest and most scientifically valuable part.

The arachnology of the Natural History Museum focuses on the spiders of Europe. The most important part of the collection is the Konrad Thaler collection, which comprises around 150,000 mainly European specimens. It is the largest privately compiled spider collection in Europe. In recent years a number of tropical spiders have also been added, especially Oonopidae from Southeast Asia. The arachnological collection currently contains 150 type specimens (including paratypes). The Natural History Museum in Bern also maintains the World Spider Catalog , a catalog of all the web spider taxa in the world and the associated scientific publications.


The museum's vertebrate collection includes objects from the following groups of animals:

  • Birds: approx. 34,000 objects
  • Mammals: approx. 23,000 objects
  • Fish: approx. 14,000 objects
  • Amphibians: approx. 7,500 objects
  • Reptiles: approx. 5,000 objects

Dog skull

An entire exhibition is dedicated to the famous St. Bernard, Barry .

With a good 2,800 specimens from exactly 240 breeds, the museum houses the largest scientific dog collection in the world. In addition to skulls, skeletons, fur and tissue samples from pedigree dogs, the collection also includes documents on the dogs and a cynological library. Building on the oldest object, the famous St. Bernard Barry from 1814, the collection was intensively expanded as early as the 19th century. The Albert Heim Foundation for Cynological Research supports scientific research on dogs and promotes the permanent expansion of the collection.

The historical origin of the cynological collections goes back to Theophil Studer (1845–1922), professor in Bern and director of the Natural History Museum. One of his main research interests was the research on the ancestry of domestic dogs. The collection is valued by scientists from all over the world and is used extensively to research the evolution of dogs.

Goeldi collection

Emil August Goeldi (1859–1917) collected thousands of animals for museums in South America, including numerous new descriptions of newly discovered animal species. Goeldi is considered a pioneer of scientific exploration of the Amazon through his research activities, which took place mainly in Brazil and what is now Belem . The Natural History Museum Bern owns the largest remaining part of its collection. With a total of over 14,000 objects, the Goeldi collection is the most extensive in the museum. The majority of this collection is made up of around 9,500 Hymenoptera from Brazil and more than 3,000 bird specimens.

Projet Lac

The Projet Lac is a collaboration between Eawag , the Natural History Museum Bern, the Université de Franch-Compté and the INRA Thonon-les Bains. The aim of the research is a standardized inventory of the fish fauna of the deep pre-alpine lakes. In addition to researching the current fish diversity, the project also includes building a reference collection of prepared fish in the Natural History Museum (currently approx. 9,500 objects) as a basis for future comparisons. Scientific studies are also being carried out on the relationships between the environment, environmental changes and species distribution, biodiversity and genetic diversity. The work in the Projet Lac makes it possible for the first time to determine how the fishing communities in the lakes are composed.

Archaeozoological evidence collection

The museum houses what is probably the world's oldest archaeozoological collection of Neolithic and Bronze Age animal bones from Swiss lakeside settlements. It was acquired in 1883 from the estate of the doctor and amateur archaeologist Johann Uhlmann (1820–1882) and is one of the most complete collections of its kind in Switzerland. It is still used today as a reference collection for the determination and processing of archaeozoological finds.


The museum's extensive herpetological collection includes more than 12,000 amphibians and reptiles from Africa, Madagascar, South America and Southeast Asia. One of the most valuable parts is the still growing collection of amphibians of Southeast Asia, which includes numerous rare, potentially endangered, previously unknown and undescribed species. With around 4,200 specimens, it is one of the largest amphibious collections in this region worldwide.

Earth sciences

  • Mineralogical-petrological collection: approx. 70,000 objects
  • Paleontological collection: approx. 375,000 objects
Treasure from the Planggenstock

The thematic and regional focus of the systematic collection of minerals from all over the world is on Alpine Zerrkluft minerals from Switzerland. Many of the large Alpine quartz crystal finds are documented (e.g. Vorderer Zinggenstock 1719, Tiefengletscher 1868, Gerstengletscher 1948, Rhone Glacier 1960, Gerstenegg 1974). The Planggenstock find (2005) exhibited in the museum is one of the most important crystal collections in the Alps.

The meteorite collection includes around 250 different meteorite names from all over the world, including the main masses of the Swiss meteorites Rafrüti, Twannberg , Ulmiz and Utzenstorf. The special collection of Oman meteorites contains over 6,000 samples of meteorites that have been collected in the Sultanate of Oman since 2001 as part of a research project under the direction of the Natural History Museum . It represents the world's largest systematically collected collection of meteorites from a hot desert.

The museum owns 22 boulders, but they are still in their original location. The most remarkable example is the Luegibodenblock near Habkern , an exotic granite block from the tertiary wildflysch with an estimated mass of 12,000t.


The exhibition Barry - the legendary St. Bernard dog shows the heroic deeds of the famous St. Bernard from the Great St. Bernard . Barry lived there as a rescue dog in the hospice run by Augustinian Canons.

The Institute for Anatomy at the University of Bern bequeathed the largest collection of animal skeletons in Switzerland to the Natural History Museum. 328 skeletons and 528 individual bone parts offer an insight into the diversity of vertebrates in the large bone show . The highlight of the exhibition is the 23 meter long fin whale skeleton.

In the basement, the museum shows the inexhaustible diversity of minerals, their origin and use with the exhibition Stones of the Earth . In addition to precious stones such as topaz and apatite , diamonds and gold nuggets can also be admired. The real treasure trove, however, houses the sensationally clear and large rock crystals that were found in 2005 on the Planggenstock in the canton of Uri. The highlight of the exhibition is a perfectly shaped crystal group weighing 300 kilograms.

The colorful world of invertebrate animals reveals itself to visitors at the exhibition Bugs & Co . In addition to beetles, butterflies, snails and mussels, there are also fossil animals from past geological ages.


Historical diorama with a gorilla

The collection of large African animals in the permanent exhibition Animals of Africa is the centerpiece of the museum. The big game hunter Bernard von Wattenwyl and his daughter Vivienne bequeathed over a hundred specimens that they shot on their two hunting safaris in East Africa 1923-24. The dermoplastics and the furnishing of the bunks were created by the taxidermist Georg Ruprecht and his journeymen. The background was painted by the painter and drawing teacher Heinrich Würgler. Both of them have never been to Africa themselves and oriented themselves solely on the basis of descriptions and pictures. The Dioramas on Africa opened in 1936 and are still one of the main attractions of the Natural History Museum. The permanent exhibitions were gradually renewed after the opening of the new building in 1998. On the other hand, the historical dioramas were deliberately left in their original state, because on the one hand they are among the few still completely preserved; on the other hand, because they are of high design and artistic quality.

The dioramas in the Animals of Switzerland exhibition date from the beginning of the Second World War and were particularly popular with members of the army. The 164 showcases with 610 specimens show the biodiversity of the Swiss Alpine region . The "Heimatmuseum" contains typical alpine species such as rock ptarmigan and snow hare , which are shown in summer and winter clothes. The more than 145 bird species are also impressive, from house sparrows to the rare little owl . Some of the animals can no longer be found in Switzerland, others - like the lynx - have since returned.

The dioramas in the Animals of the North exhibition also date from the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to bears , seals and musk ox, they show the rich bird life of Lofoten with 8 species and 48 individuals.

Special exhibitions and events

End of the world - end without end

The exhibition Doomsday - End Without End in the Natural History Museum in Bern (opening: November 2017, planned duration: five years) takes up an old topic that is, however, topical. The show brings together scientific, social and artistic views of the never-ending story of the end. Images, finds and stories from science, culture and art stand side by side and challenge one another. Huge natural disasters , wars or environmental destruction provide the breeding ground for fears and attempts to explain. In seven thematic rooms on the subject of the end of the world , a wide arc is struck - from factual analysis to prophecies and speculations to open desire for doom.


The Natural History Museum Bern is also a pioneer in the field of teaching natural science topics in a popular way. For 13 years, the museum has been holding the satirical lecture Winterbergs Bestiarium with the actor Uwe Schönbeck and Professor Christian Kropf. In addition, the Natural History Museum operates the bar of the dead animals once a year in the exhibitions.

See also

Web links

Commons : Natural History Museum Bern  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Bernastrasse 15. (PDF; 1.9 MB) In: City of Bern , accessed on February 19, 2018 .
  2. From the beginning until today: It all began with the "Bird Library". In: website Natural History Museum of the Burgergemeinde Bern, accessed on February 19, 2018 : "The new strategy is obviously successful: with 130,945 admissions, the museum recorded a new visitor record in 2016."
  3. History | Natural History Museum Bern. Retrieved July 16, 2018 .
  4. History | Natural History Museum Bern. Retrieved July 16, 2018 .
  5. Barry | Natural History Museum Bern. Retrieved July 16, 2018 .
  6. ^ Projet Lac - Eawag. Retrieved on July 16, 2018 (Swiss Standard German).
  7. Expedition Frogs Borneo | Natural History Museum Bern. Retrieved July 16, 2018 .
  8. Meteorite Research | Natural History Museum Bern. Retrieved July 16, 2018 .
  9. Animals of Switzerland | Natural History Museum Bern. Retrieved July 16, 2018 .