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Collections Services

The mission of the Science Museum of Minnesota's Collections Services Department (Collections Management and Conservation) is to ensure the physical integrity of, protect and maintain the intellectual content for, and provide access to the collections and their documentation for museum staff, outside researchers, and the inquiring public.

Billie Foreman Collection of Tribal ArtBillie Foreman Collection of Tribal Art
Ever wonder how an object gets into the Science Museum's permanent collection? Follow along as we process 260 Oceanic and African ethnographic pieces from the Billie Foreman Collection of Tribal Art. View the Video

History of Collections at the Museum

The tradition of collecting at the Science Museum of Minnesota dates back to 1870 and the Saint Paul Academy of Natural Sciences. In 1907, collections of scientific interest remaining from the Academy were turned over to the early Science Museum, the Saint Paul Institute. Early collections included 10,000 archaeological objects from the Reverend E. C. Mitchell, North American Indian (Plains) garments from Louis W. Hill, and invertebrate paleontological specimens from A. D. Roe.

The early collections of the Institute were exhibited in their entirety in rows of glass cases, a far cry from collections management, storage, and exhibit methods of today. In 1933, the Institute established its scientific departments, and in the following years staff of the museum began to do their own collecting. Archaeological digs in the 1950s and 1970s, yearly paleontological field expeditions starting in 1959, and biological expeditions, especially in the 1970s, yielded many significant specimens. Today, collections are stored systematically in state-of-the-art cabinetry, with less than 5 percent of the collections on exhibit at one time.

The collections of the Science Museum of Minnesota, from the disciplines of Anthropology, Biology, Paleontology and Geology, are used as the basis for research and scholarly publications by Science Museum curators as well as visiting scientists. The collections also provide further opportunities with members of the scientific community through loans and trades of casts and specimens with other institutions. Museum curators and Collections Services staff all work with museum exhibits staff to provide and prepare artifacts and specimens for exhibition.

For more information, email or call (651) 221-9435.