Founded in 1851

The museum was initially administered by a Museum Committee set up in 1851 and provided with a sum of approximately £100 annually for the purchase of specimens. This money came partly from funds allocated to the Chairs of Natural History and Geology and partly from donations. The specimens with which the museum first opened were purchased from the Zoological Society of London. More were acquired during the term of office of the inaugural Professor of Natural History, A.G. Melville, and his successor William King, and these were augmented by gifts and presentations, mainly from private individuals.The collection of animal and plant specimens now housed in the Zoology and Marine Biology Museum on the ground floor of the Martin Ryan Institute started out as part of a much larger collection at its inception around 160 years ago. When NUIG, then Queen’s College Galway, first opened for business in 1849, museums were regarded as being equally necessary to lecture halls and laboratories for teaching purposes. Consequently, a museum housing specimens for the teaching of Natural History, Geology and Mineralogy was established in that part of the Quadrangle occupied today by Earth and Ocean Sciences and the James Mitchell Museum.

Professor R. J. Anderson, who succeeded King in 1883, used his extensive  contacts with professional colleagues abroad to add significantly to the collection,  so that, by 1899, the Natural History Museum in QCG was among the best working museums of its kind to be found in any university of the time. Anderson’s death in 1914 coincided with a time of great change, in which all disciplines, including Natural History, suffered. Upheavals caused by World War 1, the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence, the Civil War and World War 2 meant a lack of both focus and funding. It was not until 1962, when the Natural History Department was divided to become the Departments of Botany,Geology and Zoology, that small amounts of money began to trickle in for research. The Natural History collection, which for so long had been housed in the Quadrangle, moved to Aras de Brun in 1963, along with the new departments, and was split between them.

Those parts of the collection pertaining to Zoology resided mainly in cabinets along the corridors of the ground and first floors of the building, with material that could not be displayed therein set aside in a store adjacent to the present day Anatomy Department. Tragically, an unknown number of these specimens were lost in a fire there in the late 1960s; and some further losses were incurred in the course of storage in less-than-ideal conditions in the basement of the Grammar School in College Road.                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 In spite of these setbacks, the modern collection still contains an eclectic mix of specimens ranging across the full spectrum of Zoological interest. As well as serving as an important assest for Zoology students, the collection is also a source of inspiration, education and enjoyment for students of Art, for many school classes, primary and secondary, and for the members of the general public who visit it.