The Mycological Collection of Natural History Museum was established in 1895, and with 25.000 specimens it is the largest in Serbia. It includes dried specimens (exicates) of mushrooms and other fungi collected during more than 100 years. The best represented fungi are those growing in Serbia, but the Collection also includes specimens from all over Balkans and many other parts of the world. The fungi collected in XIX century by Velislav Vojinović and Nikola Ranojević were the first specimens in Serbia collected for scientific purposes, and since then the Collection has been continuously enriched with new material. Most specimens, including several species discovered and described for the first time, were collected by Vojteh Lindtner, famous mycologist who worked at the Natural History Museum for many years. This Collection has a large museological and scientific value, not just due to scope and age, but primarily as it represents the central database necessary for studies on presence, diversity, distribution and characteristics of fungi, as well as their threat status.
This collection includes specimens of lichens collected in the area of Balkans, but also Sweden, Kenya and Antarctica from late XIX century until the present day. In order to provide them a permanent conservation, after the treatment lichen specimens are placed into special paper envelopes, of which the Collection includes 9000. Besides the museological, this Collection also has a scientific importance, as it represents the most important reference in studying lichen diversity in Serbia. This fact is supported by science papers based on data from this Collection. It is also essential for the comparative analysis of changes of community and distribution of lichens in time and space.
With over half a million specimens, the General herbarium of Balkan Peninsula is one of the richest and most valuable collections in Natural History Museum. It has a rightful name, not only due to the number of specimens collected over more than 100 years, but also due to the important biogeographical area it covers. The establishment of Museum in 1895 is also considered the start of Herbarium, but about 270 specimens originated even earlier. Josif Pančić (1814-1888), the founding father of Serbian botany, started the plant collecting in Serbia about half a century before the establishment of the Museum. One smaller part of that collection, taken from the Great School, was a beginning of what the General Herbarium of Balkan Peninsula represents today. The herbarium specimens testify on richness, diversity, complexity, history and changes in flora of Balkans, while the Herbarium represents one sort of database on plant life of this area. Although each specimen has its own scientific and cultural value, the most precious are the holotypes, as well as the representatives of endemic, relict and rare plants. The Herbarium is a source of information for numerous scientific papers, monographs, catalogues, Masters’ and Doctors’ Theses in the fields of floristics, taxonomy, phytogeography, phytocenology and applied biological sciences. It was the base for preparing the ten-tome edition Flora of SR Serbia (1970-1986) and is particularly important for preparing the new multi-tome expanded edition of Flora of Serbia. The Herbarium maintains its role in field of culture and education through plant specimens being shown at exhibitions with botanic or biological theme.
This collection was established in 1932 as a legacy of Academician Milutin Radovanović (1900-1968), curator of Natural History Museum and for a long time Professor of University in Belgrade. It includes head bones of 67 species of recent (modern) snakes collected at five continents. The oldest specimen is the head skeleton of Javelin Sand Boa, Eryx jaculus, from the island Naxos (Greece) from 1894. This Collection represents the material which M. Radovanović had used in order to prepare his Doctor’s Thesis at Jena (Germany). He chose 76 species for the comparative analysis of anatomic characteristics of snake heads, and presently the Collection includes 67 species. Besides being the scientific proof for checking the results and conclusion in the thesis by M. Radovanović, this collection also has museological, historical and scientific importance, especially for phylogenetic and evolutionary studies on this group of reptiles.
The Ichthyologic collection, established in 1903, includes about 1000 specimens of marine and freshwater fishes from the area of Yugoslav lands, from Adriatic Sea and Thessaloniki Bay, grouped in three distinct units. The Historical collection includes specimens of fishes conserved in liquid, which were collected in period 1895-1996. Especially valuable are specimens from Thessaloniki Bay (collected in 1895) and those collected from Danube and Sava by Mihajlo Petrović Alas in period 1902-1910. The Study collection also includes specimens in liquid, collected since 1996. Their importance is primarily scientific, as they are the base for studies of ichthyofauna diversity of Serbia and Balkan Peninsula. The collection of exhibition specimens includes taxidermy specimens mostly used for exhibitions but also with museological and scientific importance. Most important are species rarely collected in Adriatic Sea, such as Triggerfish, Atlantic Sturgeon and sharks (Sharpnose Sevengill Shark, Thresher, Roughshark).
Although the Collection was established in 1895, the intensive collecting of specimens had started in 1892. Out of 5,600 specimens, most are from Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, a smaller group is from the other countries of Balkan Peninsula, while the fewest number is from the remote parts of Europe and World (Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, North and South America). The influx of specimens through active collecting in the field is minimal in the present time, as the survival of many bird species is more or less threatened and their numbers have decreased. Therefore the activities of the curators are primarily directed to adequate protective conservation of the existing Collection which includes four units: Historical Collection (specimens from the former Natural Science Cabinet of Great School), Study Collection (balgs: birds prepared in a way that enables analysis of morphometric characteristics for the scientific processing), Mounted specimens (taxidermic specimens intended for exhibitions but also used in scientific research), Collection of eggs and nests (primarily of the scientific importance). The Collection of birds at the Natural History Museum is one of the richest in Southeastern Europe and has a significant scientific, museological, cultural, educational and historical importance, as it represents a documented overview of richness, composition, diversity and changes in bird fauna in time and space.
The Collections of mammals at the Natural History Museum were established in 1895 and they include specimens collected not only in Balkans and Europe but also in Africa, Asia, America and Australia. Almost 10,000 specimens are included in 6 separate collections, and there is also a Collection of hunting weapons and gear. The origins of these collections are in the small “Collection of animals” at Great School in Belgrade. The rich Study Collection of Mammals, as a referent one, is of crucial importance for analysis and validation of mammal fauna of Serbia and Balkan Peninsula. The data from this Collection were used to prepare the list of mammal fauna as well as estimates of diversity, bionomy, distribution and ecology of mammals of various territorial units and primarily Serbia. The History Collection of Mammals mostly includes the specimens from the Great School, but also others collected in the period from the second half of XIX century to World War II. The Collection of exhibition specimens of mammals includes the mounted taxidermic specimens which are very important for the exhibition activity. The Collection of Exotic Mammals includes the preparates of animals from out of Europe. The Yugoslav collection of trophies mostly includes the specimens from the former Museum of Forestry and Hunting. Those are various trophies from the territory of SFR Yugoslavia. The base for the Collection of foreign hunting trophies is formed by specimens from Collection by Jevgenij Demidov – Duke San Donato, mostly from the Asian continent but also from Africa, America and Australia. The Collection of hunting weapons and gear was also transferred from the Museum of forestry and hunting; it includes the most diverse objects from primitive bows and arrow bags to Middle Ages weapons to modern hunting weapons and gear.