The Historical Division cares for the Historical Image and Document Collections. It is tasked with making this central research infrastructure publicly accessible and useable. The archival materials provide in many cases the only evidence for the provenance and scientific examination of natural history objects, that to this day comprise a basis for biodiversity sciences. Moreover, the division engages in and supports collection development and research projects across all collections. These projects examine the history of scientific practices, collections and exhibitions and make legible the role of the Museum für Naturkunde in the context of global histories. With its collection of historical documents, the division contains one of the world’s most significant archives concerning the history of natural sciences with a focus in the areas of biology, geology and palaeontology.
Closely linked with the origin of the scientific collections of the Museum für Naturkunde and its predecessor institutions, the archive contains more than 90.000 files and approx. 20.000 images (about 900 running metres) from more than 200 years of national and international history of science. The various kinds of documents such as correspondences, administration files, object lists, expedition reports and diaries are complemented by teaching materials, maps, drawings, photos and an extensive collection of historical portraits.
As a public archive of the federal state Berlin, the Historical Image and Document Collections is liable to the Berlin Archival Law (14/03/2016).
The classification system is subdivided into the following main groups:
- Records collection (holding identifier: S)
- Estates (holding identifier: N)
- Document collections (holding identifier: K)
- Image collection (holding identifier: B)
- Object collection (holding identifier: OS)
- Damaschun, Ferdinand et al. (ed.): Klasse, Ordnung, Art – 200 Jahre Museum für Naturkunde. Berlin 2010 (Class, Order, Species – 200 Years of Jahre Museum für Naturkunde. Berlin 2010, available in English)
- Zischler, Hanns; Hackethal, Sabine und Carsten Eckert (ed.): Die Erkundung Brasiliens. Friedrich Sellows unvollendete Reise. Berlin 2013 (in German only)
- Muzeum w Gliwicach/Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (ed.): Wilhelm von Blandowski. Ein Naturforscher in Australien. Gliwice 2013 (in German and Polish only)
- Hermannstädter, A., Heumann, I., Pannhorst, K. (ed.): Wissensdinge. Geschichten aus dem Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. Berlin 2015 (in German only)