The Georgia Museum of Natural History is located in Athens on the University of Georgia’s east campus within the Natural History Building. The museum collects, preserves, and exhibits specimens of biological, archeological, geological and paleontological significance for Georgia and the surrounding southeastern United States region. The museum is supported by the University of Georgia and the departments of Botany and Plant Pathology, Entomology, Geography, Geology, and Anthropology, which oversee fourteen separate areas of collection.
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Highlights of the collection include the Anthropology collection. Over 4 million anthropological artifacts span a history of over 12,000 years of humans living in Georgia and the southeastern region of the United States, and make the museum one of the largest in the region. The collection consists of mainly pottery shards, as well as skeletal remains, stone tools and plants. A Botany Collection consists of more than 230,000 preserved and pressed vascular plant samples. The herbarium plays an important role in contributing research on the flora of the southeast to state and federal agencies.
Arthropod Collections include over 1.3 million preserved and pinned specimens, as well as slide mounted specimens. An Invertebrate Collection includes over 25,000 species from the ocean, freshwater and land, many of which are extinct or threatened. The Herpetology Collection is among the strongest in the United States. Specimens dating back to 1940 include many rare and threatened species. The Icthology Collection also dates back to 1940 and includes over 300,000 preserved specimens of fish, spanning 100 families.
The Mammalian Collection consists of skins, skeletal remains and partial specimens of southeastern U.S. mammals. Some specimens date back to the early 1900’s. The collection serves as a depository for U.S. Department of Agriculture research. An Orinthology Collection contains over 5,000 bird skins as well as over 800 eggs clutches. The collection includes rare bird eggs from around the world, with a focus on Central America. A Zooarchaeology Laboratory servers as a resource for archeologists looking to identify animal remains from paleontological sites around the world.
History: The University of Georgia has maintained collections among the various departments since the 1940’s. These collections were formally recognized as the Museum of Natural History in 1978. In 1999, the museum was deemed the official state museum of Natural History by the Georgia General Assembly. The museum is supported in part by The Friends of the Georgia Museum of Natural History. The non-profit organization supports the museum for fundraisers, increased public awareness and outreach programming. Together, the museum and the Friends of the museum work to promote understanding and awareness of Georgia’s rich natural history with the hopes of fostering interest in continued conservation, habitat protection and environmental preservation.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The museum offers a range of education programming both on and off site. Museum tours are available to groups, and specialized tours can be arranged for groups of any age or area of interest. As the primary mission of the museum centers on education and teaching, the University offers teacher workshops and internships to prepare educators to best make use of the collections in their classrooms. In addition, the museum offers collections and museum management courses.
The Science Box Project is an off-site educational program in which teachers can arrange for a box of specimens to visit their classroom, based on a chosen area of interest. Online educational programming includes the Habitats of Georgia interactive Google Map. The map highlights the plants and animals of each distinct geographical area, and discusses the environmental issues facing each site. The museum runs ten websites dedicated to cataloguing the wildlife of Georgia, and empowering the public to assist with conservation by reporting invasive species.
Past and Future Exhibits: Gallery space at the museum hosts rotating exhibits from the permanent collection. In 2005, the museum partnered with the University of Georgia Libraries to exhibit ‘Preserving Natural History at the University of Georgia’ a special exhibit on methods of collection, research and display. ‘Insectival’ was a special presentation of the insects of the permanent collection, with academics on hand to answer questions from the public. A Rainforest Festival showcased specimens from the museum’s rainforest collection, while Bird Day focused on ornithological specimens. In 2012, the exhibit ‘Leopards, Hyenas, and Bears - Oh My!’ highlighted the newly acquired Collins Collection, consisting of a preserved grizzly bear, leopard, hyena and Cape Buffalo.
101 Cedar Street, Athens, GA 30602, Phone: 706-542-1663