Scientific Collections

The IINH Scientific Collections preserve millions of specimens and samples of organisms, fossils, cores, unconsolidated sediments, tephra, rocks, and minerals. The Scientific Collections are an important foundation for research in the fields of petrology, mineralogy, palaeontology, systematics, as well as research on Iceland’s geological history. The objective of the Scientific Collections is to reflect as fully as possible the natural history of Iceland and its biota, the current state of biological diversity, and the rocks and minerals found here.

Many collection items are rare or no longer found in nature in Iceland. Other items, such as specimens of the same species from the same location, form chronological sequences spanning many decades. The IINH Scientific Collections thus preserve knowledge about nature in Iceland that would otherwise be lost. It can also be unfeasible or too expensive to obtain new specimens or samples, making collection items a valuable resource for researchers.

Collection holdings are largely the product of research by specialists at the IINH. Many important specimens have also been donated by private individuals and public institutions, most notably the University of Iceland and the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute.

The IINH Scientific Collections are organized into three administrative divisions by field of study:

Geological Collections

Plant and Fungi Collection

Animal Collection

Every year, collection items are loaned out for exhibition and research purposes in Iceland and internationally (see our Loans Policy).

Historical collection items

The IINH Scientific Collections preserve artefacts from pioneering naturalists in Iceland. Part of the collection can be traced back to the collection belonging to the Icelandic Natural History Society, established in 1889.

The oldest collection items in the IINH Scientific Collections are three Macoma calcarea shells collected in 1755 or 1756 by Icelandic naturalists Eggert Ólafsson and Bjarni Pálsson, during their travels around Iceland in the 1750s. Several rock samples collected in 1839–41 by Jónas Hallgrímsson, Iceland’s beloved national poet and naturalist, are found in the Geological Collections. Other notable Icelandic naturalists represented in the Scientific Collections include Benedikt Gröndal, Bjarni Sæmundsson, Stefán Stefánsson, and Helgi Jónsson. The IINH Scientific Collections thus have a clear cultural and historical significance, in addition to their scientific value.