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The Zoological Museum Collection

The Zoological Museum has a long and proud tradition. From humble beginnings around 250 years ago, the collection gradually expanded to become one of the most important teaching museums of the period. The colourful history of the museum since its formation in 1777, is paralleled throughout the years by the endeavours and commitment of its various directors and curators. Of these, by far the most influential was Robert Ball (1844-1857) who on appointment, donated his private collection, and was largely responsible for amassing most of the material by benefaction, purchase and through personal contacts.

At its peak, the significance and importance of the museum in college life was reflected in the erection of a purpose built building in 1876, specifically designed to house the collection. Today, little remains of the original interior of the building. Years of renovation and modification have taken their toll both on the structure of the building itself and on the museum collection. As a result, the museum is now confined to a relatively small area on the first floor.
However, despite over two centuries of disruption and change, much of the collection remains intact and provides a vital undergraduate teaching resource for the Department of Zoology. With generous financial support from our friends and alumni, the museum has recently undergone major refurbishment and it now represents a unique and popular resource for staff, students and visitors.

The Collection

Widely recognized as a significant collection of national and international importance, the Zoological Museum of today, through its rich historical and cultural diversity represents an important entity. The collection contains representatives of all the animal phyla, from tiny protozoa, to large mammals and fulfills a significant teaching, research and educational role both within college and to the wider community.  Records show that the general collection may be 150-200 years old. There are many examples of extinct and endangered species (including Ireland’s Last Great Auk) and there are over 12,000 insect specimens in an entomological collection of renowned scientific value. In particular, the Murray insect collections contain 336 national records.  This collection has been heavily drawn upon for national records going back to the Baynes revised catalogue of Irish Macrolepidoptera of 1964. These records are a clear indication of how nationally important the collection remains today. The Museum is further enhanced by a collection of hand-made glass models prepared by the famous Blaschka family (c. 1860).

Given its historical background, its connections with noted college academics, stretching back over 200 years and private collectors, the collection as a whole represent a unique resource among Irish and most British Universities. Individual specimens and specific collections are of significant national and international importance.

The Museum cares for a wide range of material that is worldwide in scope and diverse in quality. Most of the continents and ocean basins are represented by specimens and collections in various forms (dry mounts, skeletal, wet and slide mounted). The diversity and quality of the material, is unique among Irish (and most British universities) and provides a non-renewable resource of scientific, educational and cultural significance. Through the parameters and themes of its Collection Policy (2012), the Museum accepts and collects material within a defined framework of education, teaching and research interests.