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Natural History Museum Vienna (NHMW)

Natural History Museum Vienna


The Naturhistorische Museum Wien opened in 1889, and is now home to scientists who undertake research across earth sciences, life sciences, and human sciences. The Museum is one of the largest non-university research centres within Austria.

NHMW is the main institution for biodiversity research in Austria including departments of Zoology, Botany, Geology-Palaeontology, Mineralogy, Anthropology, and Prehistory. The collection comprises more than 30 million objects including more than 600,000 unique types. The Museum’s earliest specimens and items were collected over 250 years ago, and was originally built to house the collection of the imperial Habsburg family.

The collection on public display spans 39 showrooms comprising of 8,700 square metres The Museum is home to an extensive collection of world-famous artefacts and items, including the Venus of Willendorf, and the world’s largest and oldest public collection of meteorites on display, it attracts c. 750,000 public visitors a year.

Collections infrastructure

The collections at NHMW are both historically and geographically significant. Historic material dating back to 1690 focuses on the geographic range of the Austro - Hungarian empire, as well as global material from imperial research missions. NHMW can offer material that is otherwise only available in CIS states. Extensive material from outside Austria comes from the Balkan Peninsula (especially Albania, Bulgaria & Greece), Crete, the Iranian area north to the Caucasus, Australia and New Zealand. Material from other geographic areas is globally important for single taxonomic groups, e.g. Brazil, Chile, South Africa, China and the Philippines.

In addition to a workforce of 60 scientists, approximately, 200 citizen scientists are also supporting research at NHMW.

Collections are especially strong and important for taxonomic work in the area of Austrian-Hungarian monarchy but also in Crete, the Iranian area north to the Caucausus, Australia and New Zealand. In other geographical areas the collections also have global importance for single taxonomic groups.

Research Infrastructure services

Scientific visitors to NHMW can access >30 million objects including  600,000 type specimens across all departments. More than 60 highly specialised research staff in the different departments are available to support visiting researchers. Available equipment includes electron microscopes, microprobes, X - Ray diffraction, photography studios, DNA labs, workstations for data – capture and sharing, and a chemosystematic Laboratory - see the equipment list at the top of this page for a full guide. 

The libraries are offering around 6,000 scientific journals and around 200,000 books, more than 50,000 of which are historically valuable. In 2016 researchers and amateurs from 35 countries spent approximately 5,000 visitor days in the research departments and libraries, and expressed appreciation for the highly qualified staff and support for their investigations. Under previous SYNTHESYS projects NHMW welcomed a total of 397 researchers to the collections for 4,127 user days. Supported areas of research include: physical anthropology, botany (incl. Algae, lichens and fungi), geology, mineralogy (incl. Petrology and meteorites), palaeontology, prehistory, zoology (incl. Vertebrates, invertebrates), archives and libraries.

Recent Highlights

  • first identification of a leprosy germ via anaylsis of aDNA
  • description of a new species of Gundelia from Armenia and a new genus of water bugs
  • proof of “Luizi structure” in Democratic Republic of Congo as impact crater of a meteorite
  • discovery of rare grave furniture: bronze dagger, iron jack-knife
  • investigation of bird migration route of young honey buzzard


Dr Karin Wiltschke,

Institution info

Vienna, Austria


Institution info

Contact: Dr Karin Wiltschke, 

Vienna, Austria