Natural Science

The natural science collection comprises around 800,000 specimens, and is hugely diverse in terms of subject area, specimen type, and taxonomic range. It is Designated as being of national and international significance.

The geology collection includes a wide range of fossils, minerals, rocks and meteorites, telling the story of our planet’s history. Yorkshire’s geology is very well represented, and the mineralogy collection is a particular strength comprising a range of British and largely European specimens including some significant rarities and a modest collection of cut and polished gemstones.

There are a number of type and figured specimens in the fossil collection and some rare assemblages of excavated cave material including Raygill fissure and Victoria Cave. Highlights of the palaeontology collection include a Giant Deer (formerly Irish elk) skeleton, ichthyosaur skeletons, and the Armley Hippo.

The zoology collection includes shells, skeletal material, microscope slides, taxidermy, skins, eggs and spirit specimens. This material represents a vast range of biodiversity including vertebrates, arthropods and molluscs.

The conchology collection (shells) is a particular strength with massive research value, as well as being a valuable resource for learning and display. We hold a range of type and figured material, such as specimens collected by Sylvanus Hanley and material described by Terry Crowley.

The taxidermy collection, including historic as well as recent specimens, is very popular with visitors of all ages, and is an inspiration for  artists and scientists alike. We hold taxidermied specimens of endangered species including snow leopard, kakapo, and giant panda, and extinct species such as thylacine, huia, passenger pigeon and hyacinth macaw. These are hugely important for education, display and research purposes. Sadly, museums such as ours are now the only place where many of these species can be seen or researched.

Highlights of our osteology collection include five skulls of the extinct thylacine, and skeletal material from extinct birds such as dodo, great auk, and moa.

We hold a range of entomology material covering all insect orders, including insects collected in Yorkshire and around the world. We hold one of the world’s best collections of fig wasps, collected and recently donated by Dr Stephen Compton. We have a strong collection of butterflies and moths collected both locally and abroad, including specimens of extinct and endangered species.

Our botany collection includes thousands of mounted plant specimens and seeds, as well as dried fungus, mosses and lichen. The flora of Leeds and Yorkshire are well represented, and has recently been made more accessible to the public and researchers through the Museum to Meadow project, funded by the MA’s Effective Collections initiative.

From mysterious seeds to the oldest rocks, tiny fleas to huge mammoth tusks, or aardvarks to zebras, our collections are a valuable resource for anyone wishing to find out more about the world around them.