Discover Why Museums are Important

Collections are a Library of Life

Much of what we know about biodiversity and its origins comes from the collection, preservation and ongoing study of natural specimens and cultural remains. Museum collections are libraries of the world's biological, cultural and environmental history and are vital to our ability to interpret the past and understand our place in its future. As such, museums are stewards of this history, preserving it for posterity while fostering an informed appreciation of our complex and ever-changing world.

The Florida Museum's Division of Collections and Research is dedicated to understanding and preserving biological diversity and cultural heritage. Utilizing millions of specimens and artifacts housed within the Museum, our scientists are at the forefront of exploring some of today's most pressing and fascinating scientific issues.

As of 2011, the Florida Museum houses more than 34 million specimens and objects, making us the Southeast's largest natural history museum and one of the top five nationally in terms of collections size. Many of our individual department collections rank among the top 10 in the U.S., and some rank among the top 10 globally. These vast holdings are available locally and internationally to scholars, scientists, students and the public through on-site study, public exhibitions, loans, publications, television and the Internet.

 
Doug Jones with clams in the Gulf

Florida Museum Director Douglas Jones is at the forefront of an emerging new discipline with profound implications for using natural history specimens to track ancient climate trends. Sclerochronology analyzes chemical variations, such as oxygen isotopes, found in the growth patterns of organisms with hard tissues such as sea shells, fish otoliths (ear bones) and mammal teeth. Unique oxygen isotope signatures correlate to specific variations in ocean salinity and air and sea water temperature. In essence, the incremental growth rings in these organisms are a permanent historical record, just like a tree’s rings, of the environment where the organism lived.

Scientific research on the collections has direct applications for these fields of study:

  • Biodiversity
  • Biomedical research
  • Climate change
  • Cultural and environmental change
  • Cultural heritage and diversity, both today and in the past
  • Distributions of plant, animal, and human populations
  • Endangered species
  • Environmental contaminants
  • Evolution and extinction
  • Origins of life and disease
  • Use of natural resources

 

Visiting the Florida Museum? Learn more in the exhibit Museum Collections are the Library of Life.