Specimens: Unlocking the Secrets of Life

March 10, 2017 — January 7, 2018

Botanical
Flowering plants
Non-flowering plants
Geological
Vertebrate Fossils
Invertebrate Fossils
Paleobotany
Rocks
Zoological
Birds
Herps
Invertebrates
Mammals
Insects
Fishes
Anthropological

We have specimens from every continent and ocean on Earth.

Work takes our scientists to all kinds of places. They’ve rappelled into the rainforest from a helicopter, scuba dived in the ocean, explored dark caves, and even searched for reptiles and amphibians in Indiana.
  1. This little green
    beetle was collected
    in Argentina in 1953.

    It's a specimen, or one example of
    a particular species.

  2. It's one of
    several million
    beetle specimens at
    The Field Museum.

    Together, all these individual beetles
    are part of a bigger collection.

  3. In fact, our Insect
    Collection has over
    17,000,000 insects.

    That's more than the number of
    people who live in Illinois.

  4. Altogether, there
    are 30,000,000 items
    in our collection

    ...and counting.

    We have many different kinds of objects:dinosaur bones, microscopic stardust, & fossilized plants.

    The Field Museum’s collection can be categorized into four main groups. The largest portion of the collection is Zoology, which includes 17 million insect specimens. Our Botany and Geology collections each have about 3.9 million items, and our Anthropology collection has the fewest items.
    CategoryCollectionSpecimens
    Botanical 0
     Flowering plants2400000
     Non-flowering plants500000
    Geological 0
     Vertebrate Fossils200000
     Invertebrate Fossils2000000
     Paleobotany400000
     Rocks300000
    Zoological 0
     Birds540000
     Herps300000
     Invertebrates4800000
     Mammals240000
     Insects17000000
     Fishes2000000
    Anthropological 1100000
  5. Less than 0.1% of these objects are out where visitors can see them.

    We care for most of them
    behind the scenes.

    Specimens like bones and things in jars are stored in cabinets and on shelves that are arranged in long rows. Different spaces are home to different groups of items, arranged carefully by type or by size.
  6. Every specimen, whether it was collected 125 years ago or yesterday, tells us something about the history of life on Earth.

    Plan your visit and discover Specimens for yourself.