Naturalis Biodiversity Center

Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Nederlands Centrum voor Biodiversiteit Naturalis

Mammoth skeleton on display in the section
about prehistoric animals
Location in South Holland in the Netherlands
Established 9 August 1820 (1820-08-09)
Location Darwinweg 2[1]
Leiden, Netherlands
Coordinates 52°09′53″N 4°28′24″E / 52.16472°N 4.47333°E / 52.16472; 4.47333Coordinates: 52°09′53″N 4°28′24″E / 52.16472°N 4.47333°E / 52.16472; 4.47333
Type National museum
Natural history museum
Research center
Collections zoology, botany, geology
Collection size 37 million objects[2]
Visitors 339,550 (2015)[3]
Director Edwin van Huis[4]
Curator René Dekker[4]
Public transit access Leiden Centraal/LUMC[1]

Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Dutch: Nederlands Centrum voor Biodiversiteit Naturalis) is a national museum of natural history and a research center on biodiversity in Leiden, Netherlands. Although its current name and organization is relatively recent, its history can be traced back to the early 1800s. Its collections contain approximately 37 million specimens, one of the largest natural history collections in the world.[5] In late 2016 the center closed its main building for renovations, with plans to re-open in late 2018. Temporary exhibitions are open in the pesthuis entrance building during the renovations.[6]


The beginnings of Naturalis go back to the creation of the National Museum of Natural History by King William I on August 9, 1820. In 1878, the geological and mineralogical collections of the museum separated into two institutions.[7] These remained distinct until the merger of the Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie (abbreviated RMNH) and the Rijksmuseum van Geologie en Mineralogie (abbreviated RGM) in 1984, as the Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum (NNM) or National Museum of Natural History.[8]

In 1986, it was determined that the institution should become a public museum, and a new building was designed by Fons Verheijen. The building's reception area incorporated the 1657-1661 Pesthuis, designed by Huybert Corneliszoon van Duyvenvlucht.[9] Completed in 1998, it was opened on April 7, 1998 by Queen Beatrix.[7] The new building cost about €60 million, making it the second most expensive museum building in the Netherlands.

As of 2010, the National Museum of Natural History (Naturalis) further combined with the Zoological Museum Amsterdam (ZMA) of the University of Amsterdam, and the Dutch National Herbaria at the universities of Leiden, Amsterdam and Wageningen, to form the Nederlands Centrum voor Biodiversiteit (NCB Naturalis).[10][11][12] The combined institute was formally opened as part of the ‘International Year of Biodiversity 2010’ by Ronald Plasterk and Gerda Verburg.[13][14]

As of 2012 the name became the Naturalis Biodiversity Center.[5] Naturalis has partnered with ETI Bioinformatics in support of the Catalogue of Life (CoL), and is working with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.[15] Funding is in place to support digitization of the massed collections.[10][16] As of 2015, further renovation and expansion is planned, with a proposed design from Neutelings Riedijk Architecten to be completed in 2018. However, the Pesthuis will no longer be part of the complex.[17]


The tower of Naturalis, in which almost the entire collection is housed

The current museum is known for the numerous objects in its collections. Prior to the merger with the Zoölogisch Museum Amsterdam and National Herbarium of the Netherlands, there were approximately 10 million zoological and geological specimens in the Naturalis collection. Following the merger with the collections of the Zoölogisch Museum Amsterdam and National Herbarium of the Netherlands in 2010-12, there are now approximately 37 million specimens:[2][10]

The largest part of the collections are stored in a 60-meter-high tower, a landmark in Leiden, opened in April 1998. Some parts of the collections are stored in a depot in the former museum building at the Raamsteeg in the city centre of Leiden.


Among the collections at Naturalis are the papers and field notes of a number of early travellers and naturalists, including the following:


Permanent exhibitions

The museum has several permanent exhibitions:[18]

Temporary exhibitions




Year Visitors Year Visitors
2008 245,275[24] 2012 251,500[24]
2009 266,000[24] 2013 307,500 (est.)[25]
2010 270,000[24] 2014 300,000 (est.)[26]
2011 273,000[24] 2015 339,550[3]

Naturalis had an estimated 285,000 visitors and was the 15th most visited museum of the Netherlands in 2013.[27] The museum had a record number of 339,550 visitors in 2015.[3]


  1. 1 2 Getting there, Naturalis. Retrieved on 20 December 2014.
  2. 1 2 Collections, Naturalis. Retrieved on 20 december 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 (Dutch) Maaike Lek, "Naturalis ontvangt voor derde jaar op rij recordaantal bezoekers",, 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  4. 1 2 Management and Trustees, Naturalis. Retrieved on 20 December 2014.
  5. 1 2 "New logo: Naturalis". The Branding Source. July 23, 2012.
  6. "Groot deel Naturalis per 31 augustus dicht voor verbouwing" [Large section of Naturalis closed for renovations from August 31]. Unity NU.
  7. 1 2 "Naturalis Biodiversity Center". INTK. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  8. Wood, Bernard; Henry, Amanda (2013). Wiley-Blackwell encyclopedia of human evolution. Oxford [etc.]: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 9781444342475.
  9. "Profile - Naturalis – National Museum of Natural History". Saatchi Gallery. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  10. 1 2 3 Oever, Jon Peter; Gofferje, Marc (20 July 2012). "'From Pilot to production': Large Scale Digitisation project at Naturalis Biodiversity Center". ZooKeys. 209: 87–92. doi:10.3897/zookeys.209.3609. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  11. "Naturalis Biodiversity Center (NBC)". Synthesis. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  12. "Zoölogisch Museum, University of Amsterdam (ZMA)". Electronic inventory of European bird collections. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  13. "Minister Plasterk opens the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity". University of Amsterdam News. February 9, 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  14. "The Netherlands starts the International Year of Biodiversity 2010 by launching new Biodiversity Centre". Naturalis. January 28, 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  15. Naturalis Biodiversity Center; Smets, E (2014). Self-evaluation report - Research & Education 2009-2013 (PDF). Leiden, Netherlands: Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
  16. Heerlien, Maarten; Van Leusen, Joost; Schnörr, Stephanie; De Jong-Kole, Suzanne; Raes, Niels; Van Hulsen, Kirsten (25 February 2015). "The Natural History Production Line". Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage. 8 (1): 1–11. doi:10.1145/2644822. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  17. Kromhout, Astrid (2015). "The design for our new museum is ready". Naturalis.
  18. "Permanent exhibitions". Naturalis. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  19. "Trix the T Rex makes her mark on Leiden in new exhibition".
  20. "Over 4,000 jam into Naturalis to see new T-Rex Trix". NL Times. 2016-09-12.
  21. "43ft-long T-rex skeleton moved to Netherlands on KLM flight". The Daily Mail.
  22. "Eindelijk heeft Naturalis haar T.rex" [Naturalis finally has her T.rex]. Trouw.
  23. "T. rex in Town - Naturalis". Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
  24. 1 2 3 4 5 (Dutch) Top 55 Museumbezoek 2012, Nederlandse Museumvereniging. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  25. (Dutch) Chris de Waard, "Naturalis trekt recordaantal bezoekers",, 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  26. (Dutch) Bart Dirks, "Leidse musea tijdelijk dicht: even geen publiekstrekkers", de Volkskrant, 2015. Retrieved on 2 June 2016.
  27. (Dutch) Daan van Lent & Pieter van Os, "Musea doen het goed: aantal bezoekers in 2013 fors gestegen", NRC Handelsblad, 2013. Retrieved on 20 December 2014.
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