The LWL-Museum of Natural History hosts an extensive zoological collection that includes insects, mollusks, spiders, birds and mammals.
The collection consists of more than 1 Million objects. Among those are also objects of all regions of the Westphalian fauna, which are currently needed for research matters concerning the development and endangerment of the local wildlife. It is a very diverse assortment of collection objects.
A large insect collection
The collection of insects makes up the major part of the zoological collection. Approximately since the middle of the 19th century, insects in Westphalia have been collected on a scientific basis. These collections were initiated by the fusion of scientists of the zoological section of the provincial association for science and art. According to the tasks of the State Museum, the area Westphalia-Lippe can be regarded as the main area of collection.
Parts of the collections are already published, for example through the series of “Coleoptera Westfalica”.
Literature: Abhandlungen aus dem Westfälischen Museum für Naturkunde; 63. Jahrgang, 2001, Heft 3.
The LWL-Museum of Natural History owns the biggest collection of botanicals in North-Rhine-Westphalia.
The herbarium of the museum holds more than 200,000 individual objects.
What is a Herbarium?
Herbariums serve as archives. Plants that were dried and pressed are archived in it. Each object (plant or plant part) is attached to a page where the place and time of finding are noted down. The plants usually lose their natural color, but in a herbarium they can be preserved over a long time. All characteristics that are crucial for identification are maintained. Such plants are just as appropriate for classification as fresh plants and much better than drawings or pictures, therefore they are still used today for classification.
Exploration of the plant world
The intense exploration of Westphalia’s fauna started in the middle of the 18th century. Doctors and pharmacists were the first to study regional plants. In the early 19th century they were followed by teachers who pushed forward the exploration of the domestic flora and the transfer of botanical knowledge. Generally, the natural sciences started to get more attention then. The research of the Westphalian flora as well as the general interest in regional plants benefited from this development. The herbariums of many botanical pioneers in Westphalia can be found in the LWL-Museum of Natural History today.
Remarkable collections and collectors
One of the most valuable collections in Münster is the herbarium of the physician Johann Albert Luyken (1784-1867), who already started collecting plants in the area of Detmold as a student. He extended his collection during numerous travels. Luyken’s collection was given to the museum in 1936.
The first Westphalian “Flora”, meaning a record of all plants of Westphalia, was published in 1837. But the most important publication on Westphalia’s flora today is “Flora von Westfalen” by Conrad Friedrich Ludwig Beckhaus (1821-1890), which was only published in 1893 after his death. His extensive amounts of herbal materials have been preserved in Münster.
Other remarkable collectors and collections are: Ludwig Volrad Jüngst, Rudolf Simon Brandes (1795 until 1842), Karl Ernst August Weihe (1779 until 1834) and Clemens Maria Franz von Bönninghausen (1785 until 1864).
The collection contains about 50,000 objects and is divided into three areas: geology, mineralogy and paleontology. The biggest part is the paleontological collection. This collection has international significance and is generally from Westphalia-Lippe.
Fossils as archaeological monuments
Since 1980 Westphalia allows - according to the monument protection law - to protect fossils as monuments. Ever since the LWL-Museum of Natural History has been able to save many fossils that were at risk because of subsurface operations. The fossils give an overview over the developments of Westphalia’s landscapes and the life in this region.
Significance of the collection
The largest ammonites of the world from Westphalia are of remarkable significance in the collection. They have already been property of the LWL-Museum of Natural History since 1887 and 1895.
Also of international significance are the findings from the Carboniferous period discovered by Hagen-Vorhalle. During digs between 1990 and 1997 the museum was able to secure 300 insect fossils. 18 different species have been identified so far and a series of publications has been made.
Furthermore, the dinosaur discoveries that were made in 1998 in the Wiehengebirge are also of great significance. These findings have been identified as those of a predatory dinosaur which must have been even larger than a 13 meter long Allosaurus.
In this field the LWL-Museum of Natural History only holds a small collection which was started in 1995. Back then, a larger historical collection of utility as well as cult objects of various cultures of the Plains Indians were taken over by Helmut Kosnick.
Kosnick started to build his collection in 1973. Within 20 years he continuously collected mostly clothing, bags, tools, weapons, musical instruments, toys and ceremonial pieces of the Western Sioux. Other collection pieces come from the Cheyenne, Black Feet, Crow, Nez Perce, Apache, Yakima, and Ojibwa. The objects mostly date back to the end of the 19th century; a few to the first half of the 20th century.
Kosnick acquired a big part of his collection through an American trader named James M. Luongo, who owned a shop and a mail order business in New York. In the 80ies Kosnick enlarged his collection through private purchases and sporadic acquisitions at auctions. At the time when the collection was taken over by the museum it included 357 pieces.
Collections in regards to the cultures of the American Northwest
Between 2002 and 2005 the museum acquired a collection relating to the cultural area of Americas Northwest Coast. This collection contains contemporary utility and ritual objects. These objects were specifically made by artists of the Northwest coast for a special exhibition at the LWL-Museum of Natural History. Wood carving objects, weaving work made of bark and silk screen prints were acquired. While the silk screen prints were mostly purchased from galleries in Canada, the weaving- and wood-work was ordered straight from the artists. At the same time when the objects were purchased, a photo documentation of the larger objects was done, which shows the artists at work and the production process of the objects.
In addition to that, the museum also holds smaller ethnological collections from South America and Africa. Since 2002 these collections were taken over from private collectors.