About the Collections

Our collections have been an integral part of campus since the beginning.

In 1866, the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture transferred the State Cabinet of Natural History from the Statehouse in Boston to the newly created State Agriculture College Campus in Amherst. Originally housed in the old South College building, one of the first five buildings constructed on campus, the collection narrowly escaped destruction when the building was destroyed by fire in 1885. A significant number of these original specimens are still housed in our collections including bird mounts and herbarium specimens.

As the college grew into the flagship campus for the University of Massachusetts System, the Natural History Collections remained on site and accumulated specimens until it developed into an astonishingly large sample of the world's biodiversity with an especially strong representation of local flora and fauna.

Today, the collections stand at more than 500,000 specimens of mammals, birds, plants, fishes, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. These resources play a major role in undergraduate education. They are the focal point for many laboratory courses, serve as the raw material for graduate and undergraduate research studies, and draw attention from local and national organizations and governmental agencies.

The following pages contain detailed descriptions of each of the collections, with an introduction by the curators, a sampling of current research studies and a description of the faculty and students who play a role in their maintenance, use and growth. We hope that you enjoy this introduction to the Massachusetts Natural History Collections and urge you to contact the Director or Curators with questions or comments.

Dr. Madelaine Bartlett,
Director and Curator of Living Plants
Email: mbartlett@umass.edu