The IINH Scientific Collections preserve millions of specimens and samples of organisms, fossils, cores, unconsolidated sediments, tephra, rocks and minerals. The IINH is working towards the digital cataloguing of its entire collection, to be made public in the future on the Internet. The Scientific Collections are an important foundation for research in the fields of petrology, mineralogy, paleontology and systematics, as well as research on Iceland's geological history. The objective of these collections is to reflect as fully as possible the history of Iceland and its biota and the diversity of life in this country.
Although most materials in the Scientific Collections are the product of research under the auspices of the IINH, individuals and institutions have donated many items.
Every year, collection items are loaned out for exhibition and research purposes to both Icelandic and international parties (see Loans Policy). No clear distinction is made between items loaned for research and those loaned for display purposes: their use is determined by the borrower's needs.
The IINH Scientific Collections contain many artifacts from pioneering naturalists in Iceland. A part of the collection can be traced back to the collection belonging to the Icelandic Natural History Society, established in 1889. The oldest specimens are, however, much older: three chalky macoma (Macoma calcarea) shells that pioneering Icelandic naturalist Eggert Ólafsson collected in 1755 or 1756. Rock samples collected in 1839-41 by Jónas Hallgrímsson, beloved national poet and naturalist, are found in the Rock Collection. Other notable Icelandic naturalists represented in the Scientific Collections include Benedikt Gröndal, Bjarni Sæmundsson, Stefán Stefánsson and Helgi Jónsson. The IINH Scientific Collections thus have clear cultural and historical as well as scientific value.
October 2009, Guðmundur Guðmundsson