History – University of Copenhagen

Zoological Museum
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History 

 Ole Worm's Museum

The title copper plate in Ole Worm’s book about his museum, 1655.

 

 

 

 


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The Zoological Museum in Copenhagen can trace its origins 350 years back in time.
Being one of the oldest museums in Europe, it was founded by the highly renowned Professor Ole Worm, who lived from 1588 to 1654.
The original collection contained many wonderous objects, one of which is still present in the modern Zoological Museum.
From a scientific standpoint this object is not particularly valuable - and for this reason it is not on exhibition - but it demonstrates a fluke of nature: The lower jaw of a horse embedded in the root of a tree.
Following the death of Ole Worm, King Frederik the Third bought a large portion of his museum and had it transferred to the Royal Chamber of Art.

The present day zoological museum was created in 1862 by the fusion of the Royal Museum of Natural History, which was the succesor of the Chamber of Art, and the University Zoological Museum.
A new building, impressive in its time, was erected in Krystalgade to house the fused collection. Its exhibitions were opened to the public on the 2nd of November, 1870. The main seat of Danish zoology remained in this building for almost a century.
The collections gradually outgrew the building in Krystalgade, which meant that large parts of it had to be stored elsewhere. Furthermore, the exhibitions were increasingly being regarded as being old-fashioned.
The old museum was closed for public access in 1967. Work had already begun on a completely new museum building in Universitetsparken, which was opened to the public in 1970.

In addition to the exhibition, the museum building contains very large scientific collections from around the world.
Some of the major components are the historical material, Danish collections and millions of animal specimens collected during expeditions over the last 250 years. A considerable amount of this material was obtained by individuals who worked in regions under strong Danish influence, such as Greenland and the Danish West Indies.
Specimens are continually being added to the collections, primarily marine animals and insects. In the case of mammals and birds it is often sufficient to take a small blood sample, which allows DNA analyses to be carried out.

The museum's main areas of research focus are the elucidation of phylogenetic relationships and the study of animal life in particularly interesting or threatened regions, such as the rainforests of South America and the montane forests of East Africa and Southeast Asia. The faunas of the North Atlantic and Greenland are also areas of special interest.

The museum also functions as the Danish center for bird ringing.