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Overview of collections
The Dayton Society of Natural History curates approximate 1.8 million objects and specimens across several disciplines. The Anthropology Collection is our largest (1.4 million items) and is dominated by archaeological specimens, including those excavated from SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park. The Biology Collection (280,000 specimens) includes many insects as well as a wide variety of plants and animals. Our Geology Collection (15,000 specimens) has many rocks, minerals, and fossils. Our Astronomy Collection consists of several dozen meteorites and our Live Animal Collection has over 100 animals, including both exotic and local species that are on display in several areas of the museum. Exotic species on display include porcupine and agoutis from South America, meerkats from Africa, a 16-foot long Burmese Python, and many others. Local species represented include large animals such as otters and small creatures such as turtles and salamanders.
Each of our collections has diverse and interesting holdings, but we have many objects and specimens that we take exceptional pride in curating. An item or group of items may be a highlight of our collections due to its uniqueness, age, appearance, or scientific value.
Our Astronomy Collection includes a piece of the “Dayton Meteorite,” one of the most unusual and famous meteorites ever found. This meteorite contains two minerals that have never been found anywhere else in our solar system. The Collection also includes a replica of Galileo’s telescope, one of only four in the world modeled directly from the original.
Highlights of the Anthropology collection include the extensive SunWatch archaeological collection, historic and modern Native American items from many parts of the United States, and large collections from Ancient Egypt (including a human mummy), Japan, the Philippines, Oceania, and China.
In our Biology Collection, we curate a number of specimens from species that are now endangered or extinct, though they were not at the time of collection. These include Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, a Carolina Parakeet egg, and two Passenger Pigeons. We have a number of insect type specimens, the John W. VanCleve herbarium collection from the late 1800s, and a comprehensive bird collection also dating back into the 1800s.
Our Geology Collection includes specimens of Pleistocene (Ice Age) mammals excavated locally by DSNH, the second largest trilobite ever found, and many other fossils. We also curate a large mineral collection with many beautiful and unusual specimens.
Our Live Animal Collection has over 100 animals, most of which are species that are or were native to Ohio. Of our locally native animals, our bobcat, red-tailed hawks, and otters are some of the most well-known residents of our museum. We have a smaller number of exotic species in our care, some of whom are on display in the Bieser Discovery Center such as our sixteen foot long Burmese Python and an Emerald Tree Boa.