Specimen Collection and Archives


In 2018, the Ward Project launched a new website which links our collection to material in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences and related catalogs, bulletins and correspondence housed in the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. Now you can investigate 3-D images of specimens, find out information on their worth in the late-1800’s, and (for some species) read early accounts about where these species lived and how they behaved.  

The second floor corridors of Hutchison Hall hold a treasure trove of antique specimens. Cabinets filled with the skeletons and skulls of mammals, birds, fishes, and lizards help to illustrate amazing adaptations.

These skeletons were rediscovered several years ago and are only a small portion of the collection once housed at the University until the late 1950s.

Packed into a room no more than 90 square feet were more than 300 skeletons and taxidermy specimens, jars of specimens preserved in fluids, and boxes of fossils and vintage microscope slides from the 1800s. Some of these specimens are of species that are rare today and others are of considerable lasting scientific interest. Most are from regions far distant from Rochester and New York State.

Thanks to donations, we’ve been able to preserve these specimens, many of which were found in original hand-blown jars made sometime in the 1860s. With the help of a local glass blower/sculptor, we were able to re-curate the specimens, make new seals for the jars, and greatly extend the educational lifespan of these amazing archives.

Many of the skeletons and taxidermy specimens are also in need of restoration and careful cleaning. These have been temporarily moved into glass-front cabinets to minimize the possibility of further damage. We hope to secure funding that will allow us to rearticulate the broken parts and present clean, useful specimens to students, alumni, and the public.

What began as an effort to reclaim much-needed office space has led to a rediscovery of our department’s history and a new vision of how old and new teaching collections can live side by side in the classroom and beyond.

To display our collection properly we will need student and staff involvement at all levels—building and installing appropriate cabinetry and lighting, developing a database and website, and further researching the biology and conservation status of these animals. No one expected so much would come out of a storage room, and there is much more to do.

See the original article about how the specimens were discovered.

See the online specimen catalog.

Support the Specimen Collection Archive

If you are interested in making a gift or discussing opportunities to support the department, please contact:

Arts, Sciences and Engineering Advancement Staff
Bloch Alumni and Advancement Center
300 East River Road
Box 278701
Rochester, NY 14627-8701

Phone: (585) 275-9887