The original fossil collection of the museum was partly handed over to the geological-mineralogical institute of the university (former “Polytechnische Schule”) in 1873, where it was destroyed in a fire in 1944. After WWII the institute’s collection was rebuilt and returned to the Natural History Museum in 1995. Numerous donations of collection material extended the collection. In 2003 the museum received a donation of 3,000 sea urchins. Together with the already existing collection, this resulted in one of the most species-rich collections in Germany. Other topics of interest are mollusks, sponges, and amber with insect inclusions.
The Staatliche Naturhistorische Musem is the only German natural history museum that has conducted dinosaur excavations in Africa since WWI. Sensational findings were dug up during these excavations some of which are permanently shown in the Dinosaur Hall of the museum.
But our paleontological collection contains regional findings as well. During the 20th century, several well-preserved skeletons were added to the collection, including two ichthyosaurs (1934 and 1954) and the marine crocodilian Steneosaurus bollensis (1962). More recent finds are from Cremlingen and Schandelah, where the skeletons of ichthyosaurs can frequently be recovered. One specimen, which was found in 2011, can already be seen in our permanent exhibition.
The historically oldest paleontological pieces of the museum are bones from mammals of the ice age found in (Salzgitter-) Thiede, which were already partly described by Carl Bieling and J. H. J. Ballenstedt in 1818. These findings belong to the earliest paleontological collections worldwide.
Another special feature is the extensive collection of Pleistocene mammal bones from the “Rübeländer” caves in the Harz. The documented variety of species is unmatched in Europe and the bones are in excellent condition.