Collections

Field Museum of Natural History ("The Field Museum") houses one of the world's largest and most comprehensive collections of Recent mammals. The collection currently numbers 235,000 specimens and more than 600 primary types, ranking third in size and scope among North American collections behind Washington (USNM) and New York (AMNH). The collections are unique, encyclopedic, and worldwide in scope. I oversee the Neotropical collections, which are especially strong and attract between a third and half of our collection use via visitors and loans. Nearly 40% of our holotypes represent Neotropical mammals.

A host of distinguished past curators and other scientists have contributed to the collections' development, including especially Edmund Heller, Wilfred H. Osgood, Colin Sanborn, and Philip Hershkovitz. Today, the Neotropical collections continue to grow through my field efforts and those of our research associates and students. Former students Douglas Kelt, Chris Yahnke, Victor Pacheco, Paúl Velazco, Sergio Solari, Noe de la Sancha, and Carl Dick deserve special notice for outstanding contributions to the collections in the course of their thesis research. This has helped strengthen the collection--especially in anatomical preparations and frozen tissues--in Chile, Paraguay, and Peru, as well as in our holdings of ectoparasites.

'Don Felipe' (Philip Hershkovitz) in 1991; he served with distinction at the Field Museum from 1947 until his death in 1997. There is now a Wiki page dedicated to his life.


A number of Field Museum scientists and their collaborators have contributed substantially to the development of our Afrotropical collections. Julian Kerbis Peterhans and Terry Demos have worked extensively in the Albertine Rift, the late Bill Stanley in Tanzania, Ethiopia, and DRC, and Steve Goodman in Madagascar and various spots in southern and central Africa. Over the last 10 years, Paul Webala, Carl Dick, Michael Bartonjo, Risky Agwanda, Terry Demos, and I have contributed importantly to our holdings from Kenya. Together with earlier collections from Africa made by Heller and Akeley, our rapidly growing Afrotropical collections now exceed the Neotropical collections in size, if not yet in scope and number of holotypes.

Our Asian collections were relatively small and localized, but included important Indochinese and Philippine components, the latter numbering almost 3500 specimens dating from the 1946-47 expedition. These collections grew in episodic fashion until Larry Heaney arrived at Field Museum in 1988. His highly focused program of research on mammals throughout the Philippines has greatly augmented those collections, especially in collaborations with former students Jodi Sedlock and the late Danilo Balete.


Colin Campbell Sanborn, Curator of Mammals →

The Field Museum's mammal collections are fully databased. This step was accomplished with the dedication of Museum staff and associates dating back to the early 1980s, together with supplemental support of the National Sciences Foundation for verification (DEB-8821834), creating relational tables for tissues (DBI-9728985) and geo-references (DBI-0108161), as well as from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for converting this database from C/Base (a UNIX program) to KE EMu (a Windows program). Collection users help us to validate the database by alerting us to inaccuracies and inconsistencies in records, and the collection is cross-linked to Insect databases through our superb collections of ectoparasites. If you identify problems with our data, please notify us here.

Access the database

Access FMNH Mammals via VertNet (specify 'FMNH' in search field; this portal includes integrated mapping)

Access FMNH Mammals via GBIF.

Field Museum has also committed major resources to make its collections accessible to scholars worldwide. A Visiting Scholarship program is available to support work at undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels. Please note that requests for visiting scholarships always exceed the available supply. Also be aware that Graduate Fellowships are intended to support students-in-residence (i.e., those studying with museum curators as their research advisers, based here at the museum). Each program has a different annual deadline--plan early and be sure to coordinate your plans with museum staff!



The collections are strongest from tropical regions, with the greatest recent growth from Afrotropical habitats, but large and very important collections also from the Neotropics and IndoMalayan regions. Continual growth renders all such appraisals dated and approximate (data from 12/27/2018).




This is an appraisal of the FMNH mammal collection's taxonomic holdings (catalogued as of 12/27/2018)




Countries represented by FMNH mammal holotypes, ranked by their representation in the FMNH collection (as of 9 Jan 2013). About 40% of our holotypes represent Neotropical mammals, making that portion of the collection especially useful to the division's many visitors.

FMNH mammal holotypes by biogeographic region


More about the Mammal collections at The Field Museum.

If your envisioned use of the Field Museum's collections involves destructive sampling (this includes all genetic sampling), please see our destructive sampling policy. Providing all information needed for a decision will speed the processing of your request.

Visit Mammal History@FMNH for some of our illustrious history, including The Osgood Files, pages about the Division's eminent second curator