San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection[BRCC San Diego Natural History Museum: Collections]
Collections Care

Caring for Collections
Collections Sizes


Margaret Dykens
Registrar and Director of Research Library
phone: 619.255.0225
fax: 619.255.0344

Type specimens
refer to those specimens used to describe individual species; these have the highest scientific value for each collection

Photo of fossil shell

Collections Sizes

More than 9.2 million research specimens:

Quino Checkerspot butterfly
  • Birds: 46,700 skins and skeletons of birds with 48 primary type bird specimens.
  • Botany: 200,000 botanical specimens (vascular and non-vascular) with 400 types.
  • Entomology: 980,000 terrestrial pinned and labeled invertebrates and 20,000 insects preserved in 70% ethanol with 212 primary and 500 secondary types.
  • Herpetology: 73,300 reptiles and amphibians, with 60 primary and 718 secondary type specimens.
  • Mammals: 23,000 skins and skeletons of mammals with 89 primary and secondary type mammal specimens.
  • Marine invertebrates: 5 million specimens with 134 primary and 700 secondary types.
  • Mineralogy: 15,000 samples
  • Paleontology:2.6+ million plant, vertebrate and invertebrate fossils; includes 132 holotypes and 462 paratypes; 612 secondary types (figured and referred specimens).
    [estimate includes over 120,122 numbered species lots, divided approximately as follows: 63,664 vertebrate lots, 52,853 invertebrate lots, and 2,402 botanical lots. The mean lot sizes are 2.47, 46.38, and 2.0 respectively, with the total number of cataloged specimens approximating 2,613,376.]

    Plus additional library, historical and interpretive collections:

  • Library: 56,000 volumes in the main collection; at least 2,350 in the Klauber Library; 1094 in Valentien collection; bird paintings by Allan Brooks (61)
  • Archives: 400 cu ft.
  • Photo archives: at least 50,000 items
  • Maps: 4,000 of which 25% have historical importance
  • Exhibit collections: approximately 500-600 specimens held in 22,900 sq.ft. of exhibit space and additional storage space: traveling exhibits use approximately 7200 sq.ft.; temporary exhibits gallery; 8000 sq.ft.; in 2West. Core exhibitions space includes 9,000 sq.ft. for Fossil Mysteries).
  • Nature to You Loan Collection: over 1,300 specimens