Scientific Collection

Blue Gloves Plant Collectors

The museum was established by state legislative mandate in 1872 to collect, preserve, skillfully prepare, display, and interpret Minnesota's diverse animal and plant life for scholarly research and teaching and for public appreciation, enrichment, and enjoyment.

The Bell Museum has exceptional scientific collections. Nearly 4 million specimens—mammals, birds, fishes, plants, mollusks and insects—provide opportunities for research and learning. From Eurasia to South America, Bell Museum scientists collect specimens to build the museum's biological collections, which serve as an international library for scientific research. In addition to collections from around the globe, the Bell Museum has the largest collection documenting Minnesota's biodiversity.

You can access the collections online via the Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas.

Bell Museum Collections


What Our Curators Do

Museum faculty engage in curation, research, scholarship, teaching, and public outreach. This unique synergy, possible only on the campus of a great university, distinguishes the Bell Museum of Natural History as an institution that:

  • Builds and maintains comprehensive scientific collections.
  • Produces cutting-edge research on biodiversity and the environment.
  • Teaches new generations of scientists and citizens about environment, ecology, and evolution.
  • Trains the next generation of museum scholars in curation and biodiversity research.
  • Exhibits the natural life of our state and region-and beyond-in ways that inspire inquiry, appreciation, and enjoyment.
  • Educates visitors and participants through personal learning opportunities.
  • Serves teachers and students throughout the community, state and region with innovative outreach and award-winning, nationally recognized distance learning programs.