Established in 1817
The core of this collection is a natural history collection that the science professors were able to buy from a local secondary school in 1817 with royal support. It was a strictly didactic collection, most of which was safely stored in cabinets in Voldersstraat and only retrieved for lessons.
In the decades that followed, successive professors of zoology and comparative anatomy steadily expanded the collection. One notable supplier was Ghent Zoo. Today, the collection still has 21 specimens of Ghent Lamas, Ostriches, a Grebe, a Meerkat and four vertebrae from the enigmatic elephant Betsy. So the only place you can see the animals at Ghent Zoo today is in this collection!
Move to Campus Ledeganck
Since the 1970s, the collection has been housed in the basements of the Ledeganck building. Dominick Verschelde, the custodian of the zoology collection, forged the link between science and the general public from his appointment in 1997 onwards by organising exhibitions, workshops and guided tours. In 2012-2019, he was also involved in setting up the GUM. Under his watchful eye, many unique and beautiful items have made the journey from the basement to the permanent exhibition, a few floors up. He also has also revived the restoration, conservation and collection policies.
Today, the collection of stuffed animals and animal specimens (some 50,000 in number) is an important collection at European level due to its high degree of (bio)diversity. Several specimens in the collection are of great importance for natural history. For example, there is the stuffed Tasmanian Tiger, of which only a handful of intact specimens exist in the world. The Australian-Asian collection contains even more extremely rare items, including the Marsupial Cat, Possum and Tasmanian Devil and the extinct Javan Lapwing. The extensive Ziegler collection is of cultural and historical importance. It is a collection of nineteenth-century wax models of the embryological development of various animal groups and the development of organs, some of which are still in their original boxes. They were made specifically for educational purposes by the German model builder Friedrich Ziegler (1860-1936).
Photos: Geert Roels