Our Natural World


The diversity of life is astonishing, and the world around us is full of incredible animals and plants. To understand the amazing forms of our planet, past and present, scientists have studied the variety of natural life often using museum collections.

The natural science collections of Hull Museums comprise over 20,000 specimens, gathered over the last two centuries. East Yorkshire is teeming with wildlife and the collections reflect the main diversity of animals, plants, rocks, minerals and fossils from across the region.

Zoology Collection

Bell jar of birds
Zoology is a branch of biology dealing specifically with animals. The science was first established in German and English universities, and was often closely connected to medical training. Zoology collections include skins, skeletons and taxidermy (stuffed and mounted) specimens of mammals, reptiles, birds and their eggs, as well as collections of shells.

Zoology also incorporates entomological collections which are insects preserved in spirit or pinned in drawers. Insects date back 400 million years and are the most diverse group of animals on earth; some 75% of all animal species are insects. The British diversity of insects is reflected in the museums collection, ranging from Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants) to Coleoptera (beetles) and Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).

Botany Collection

Botany is the scientific study of plant life, examining their growth, reproduction and evolutionary relationships. The study of plants began with tribal lore, used to identify edible, medicinal and poisonous plants.

Plants are often collected and stored in a herbarium, preserving the plants as dried and pressed specimens. The museum holds many herbaria from mosses, ferns and conifers to flowering plants. Local collections include Dawson's seaweeds, H.D. Stanley's grasses and flowering plants and Eva Crackles' extensive collection of the flora from East Yorkshire.

Geology Collection

Geology is the scientific study of the 4.6 billion years of earth history and literally means 'discourse about the earth'. Geology involves the study of rocks, minerals and fossils in order to understand how our planet evolved and what might happen to it in the future.

fossil groupThe geology around Hull and the East Yorkshire area is dominated by clays and chalks from the Jurassic (205 million years ago) and Cretaceous (142 million years ago) Periods, as well as glacial deposits from the Quaternary Period (1.8 million years ago). Common fossils found in the Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks around Hull are of marine invertebrates such as ammonites, belemnites, bivalves and echinoids as well as vertebrate fossils of fish, sharks and marine reptiles. The ice-age left many glacial rock deposits of boulder clay which sometimes contain woolly mammoth and woolly rhino remains.

The geological collections of Hull Museums reflect the age and type of fossils found in the Hull area, as well as including a range of rock and mineral specimens and even meteorites.