Restoration of the historical anatomical collection of the University of Amsterdam

The department of experimental zoology of the University of Amsterdam has hired Biotopic for restoring its historical anatomical collection. This comparative anatomical collection was started in ± 1870 by the second professor in zoology, Max Weber (University of Amsterdam), in order to study and compare anatomical traits of animal species.

The collection contains 328 brain preparations of 165 animal species, which makes it the largest brain collection in The Netherlands. In addition, there are 1125 preparations of (parts of) skeletons, of which 575 skulls, 161 preparations of digestive tracks, 197 preparations of urogenital systems and 570 complete animals. Almost half of the specimens had never been registered. The collection is one of the oldest collections on functional and comparative anatomy in The Netherlands, and it has a great cultural, historical and educational value because it represents an important chapter in science history. In addition, the collection contains a great number of specimens of endangered species.

In the past, the collection was transported to another museum where it was stored under inferior circumstances for many years, due to a lack of funding. As a result, it showed obvious signs of deterioration. The main cause of the decay was evaporation and acidification of the conservation fluids. Other causes were dust, parasites, fungus and broken pots. Because of the bad shape that the collection was in, restoration and improvement of the storing conditions were very urgent.


The restoration of the collection became possible after the great effort that was made by S. de Jager of the University of Amsterdam and M. Schilder of the 'Agnieten kapel'. Thanks to them, the Mondriaan foundation decided to sponsor active restoration of the collection. In addition, their support enabled the construction of very good storage and display possibilities in the new building of the biology faculty that was built in 1994.

The restoration was carried out in 1997 and 1998 by Biotopic under supervision of S. de Jager. The best specimens have been put on permanent display. They are now being used for educational purposes in several courses, and as an example of the anatomical diversity in the zoological world that surrounds us.


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This project was sponsored by The Mondriaan Foundation