Our Collections | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

The Collections of the Natural History Museum

This search represents only part of the Anthropology Department's collections. The Anthropology Department curates archaeological and ethnographic collections. The scope of the collections is focused on the Americas, with an emphasis on the western United States and Latin America. The Archaeology Collection includes approximately 100,000 ancient artifacts and the Ethnology Collection is comprised of about 33,000 cultural objects from North, Middle, and South America, Pacific, Australia, Asia, and Africa. These collections are available for scholarly research.

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The Dinosaur Institute houses a world-class collection of tetrapods (vertebrate animals with four limbs) from the Mesozoic Era. This collection includes fine fossil specimens of dinosaurs (including birds), pterosaurs, crocodiles, turtles, mammals, and extinct marine reptiles. In addition to skeletal specimens, the Institute also houses such rare fossil material as skin impressions and eggs. Among the Institute's unique treasures are a number of holotypes-specimens upon which a new species has been founded-as well as one of the few growth series of Tyrannosaurus rex, a series of fossils ranging from young juveniles through adults.

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The Rancho La Brea biota is one of the world's richest and most diverse late Pleistocene terrestrial assemblages. We estimate that the collection exceeds 3.5 million specimens collected from the 23 acres of Hancock Park in Los Angeles. The diversity of species, the quality of preservation, and the large numbers of specimens make this collection invaluable for the study and understanding of the end of the last Ice Age in North America. Early collectors from 1913-1915 focused on larger specimens, the ongoing Pit 91 excavation was started in 1969 with the specific goal of collecting the microfossils and Project 23 is the Page Museum's largest ongoing salvage project ever. The current online catalog only represents a tiny fraction of the Rancho La Brea collection.

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This search represents only part of the Seaver Center's collections. The photographic collection consists of over 300,000 images, including those by Al Greene (1906-1980) and Frederic Maude (1858-1959), who specialized in Southern California scenes. The Center also holds rich collections of Native American images, including the Will Soule photographs of Plains Indians and the work of A.C. Vroman (1856-1916), who photographed peoples, architecture and landscapes of the Southwest. Other photographic images range from prints of early aviators to studio portraits of early twentieth century society in Los Angeles, to images of the fledgling motion picture industry. Historic records in the Center include manuscripts (business, legal, governmental and personal); books; serials; trade catalogs; pamphlets; broadsides; maps; posters and prints. The digital images are for research use only. Use of the images for commercial or educational publications can be obtained by contacting the Seaver Center for permissions and fees.

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We have over 150,000 catalogued specimens of fossil vertebrates, ranging in size from the tiny teeth of fish, bats, shrews, and rodents, to large whales. Our collections are primarily from California, the southwestern portion of the United States, and the northwestern portion of Mexico. They include representatives of every class of fossil vertebrates, but fossil mammals from the Cenozoic (the last 65 million years) form the bulk of the collections. Because of the extensive exposures of marine rocks in Southern California, our collections also include large and diverse holdings of fishes, sharks, whales, pinnipeds, and other marine vertebrates. Opened in 2010, our new Age of Mammals hall exhibits many of our most complete fossil mammal skeletons.

View the Vertebrate Paleontology Collections