Queensland Museum

Established in 1862, the Queensland Museum is a museum of natural history, cultural heritage, science and human achievement. The Queensland Museum Network operates 4 campuses across Queensland and is custodian to approximately 16 million specimens and objects that show the changing natural and cultural history of Queensland and tropical Australasia.

The Queensland Museum Network has two major collections, which form the basis for the museum’s core activities of research, exhibitions and public education programs that strive to better understand key global issues—from climate change to nature conservation, cultural awareness and community harmony. The Queensland Museum Network is a statutory body of the Queensland government and every animal collected for research or biodiscovery reasons in Queensland must be provided to the museum afterwards, as stated in the Biodiscovery Act 2004.

State scientific collections

The Queensland Museum Network State Collection includes the following state significant scientific collections:

  1. The biodiversity collection holds comprehensive collections of a diverse range of biological specimens from Queensland's broad terrestrial and marine provinces, collected since the 1860s, as well as comparative material from adjacent Indo-Pacific regions.
  2. The geosciences collection is the largest collection of geological, mineralogical and fossil material in the southern hemisphere, combining four geoscience collections in Queensland (Queensland Museum, Geological Survey of Queensland, The University of Queensland, and James Cook University).

The state scientific collection includes:

  • 65,000 specimens of protozoans
  • 100,000 specimens of sessile marine invertebrates
  • 43,000 specimens of worms
  • 1.1 million molluscs and crustacean specimens
  • 3.6 million insects and arachnid specimens
  • 38,000 specimen lots of fishes
  • 130,000 mammal, bird, reptile and frog specimens
  • over 7 million fossil specimens
  • 55,000 geological samples
  • 27,000 mineral samples
  • further 14 million specimens used for the various scientific endeavours of the museum.

Case study

Corals are the ecosystem engineers of tropical reefs. The reef habitat created by coral calcium carbonate skeletons covers less than 1% of the global oceans but these amazing ecosystems support an estimated 830,000 multi-cellular species. Understanding the number of species of coral, their systematic relationships, geographic distributions and abundance is critical for ensuring the persistence of corals and the biodiversity they support.

The extensive collection of tropical reef corals at the Queensland Museum, is the largest in the world, housing over 34,000 coral skeletons and vouchered tissues samples for over 2,000 individual colonies. The Museum collection has formed the basis for key morphological taxonomic monographs since the 1980’s, with representative specimens for over 460 nominal species, including holotype material for 158 species.

Two scientists in navy Queensland Museum uniforms looking and pointing to some white hard coral samples. Boxes on shelves holding more collection samples can be seen in the background.

Dr Tom Bridge: Senior Curator, Corals and Dr Peter Cowman: Senior Curator, Biosystematics, examining specimens as part of the Queensland Museum’s CoralBank Project. (Image credit: Queensland Museum and SBCreative Co)

Today, Museum researchers are applying cutting edge genetic techniques to the coral tissues collections identify species and evolutionary relationships based on their DNA and discovering new species that have been hidden from coral taxonomy until now. Along with the physical skeletons, this new genetic resource and accompanying high-resolution field images within the Queensland Museum will provided a new tool for scientists and managers to identify species and their geographic distributions on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Access to the collection

If you are a researcher, you can access the physical collections upon prior arrangement with the collection managers.

You can access the online collection via the Museum’s website or the Atlas of Living Australia currently with over 860,000 specimen records available.

Material is available for loan to institutional-based researchers. Type specimens are only loaned under exceptional circumstances.