birge hall polar bear

The Birge Hall Polar Bear is one of several outreach exhibits provided by the UW Zoological Museum!


Mission Statement

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Zoological Museum was established to be a center for research and educational support for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  It was likewise charged with acting as a depository for biological specimens and knowledge deriving from activities of State of Wisconsin agencies.  It is dedicated to the preservation, study, and understanding of the vertebrate and aquatic fauna of Wisconsin, the Midwest, and other parts of the world.  The Museum acquires, processes, accessions, and houses documented specimens resulting from field and laboratory research and the work of contributing agencies.  The collections provide a library of primary information basic to studies of animal and human ecology, systematics and genetics, and morphology.

History of the Museum

The long history of UWZM collections begins in 1848, prior to construction of the first university building. At their first meeting, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents initiated specimen collecting for a “Natural History Cabinet.” Horace Tenney, later the Assistant State Geologist, with guidance and assistance from Increase Lapham, began collecting samples for use in teaching zoology and natural history courses. By 1865 the specimen inventory had reached 12,137; today the UWZM houses nearly 750,000 specimens.

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Historical scenes of ca. 1900 Science Hall Museum and Classroom