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Naturhistorisches Museum, Wien (Vienna)

Last Updated: 19th Oct 2017

By Jolyon & Katya Ralph

Naturhistorisches Museum, Wien (Vienna), Austria

Natural History Museum - Vienna

The Naturhistorisches Museum, or Natural History Museum, in Vienna, Austria, is one of the oldest and most important museums of natural history in the world. The collections were started over 250 years ago, and the current building, shown above, was opened to the public in 1889.

Here is a painting of Kaiser Franz I Stephan Von Lothringen examining specimens from the collections in the late 18th century.

The Kaiser

And below the painting some of the original specimens from the collection that are displayed within the painting.

And the original specimens

The mineral galleries are arranged primarily in systematic order in original 19th century wood and glass cabinets and contain a significant number of specimens dating back more than a hundred years, in some cases significantly more.

The mineral galleries

Here's another view of the wall cabinets and the specimen systematic display.

The mineral cabinets

This specimen of Bismuth, and a larger one on display elsewhere within the gallery, were returned from South America in the 16th century.


Here is some Irish gold.


And, returning to Bismuth, a Cornish (UK) Bismuth specimen.


Along one wall of one of the gallery rooms is a display of sawn blocks of decorative stones used in the construction of the great buildings of Vienna.

Rock Samples

Other walls carry more modern cabinets, some with more temporary displays. Here I am looking at part of the display of minerals/gemstones and similar insects that was recently displayed at the Munich Show, and reported on in various mineral magazines.

Butterflies and Rocks

A large amethyst specimen, from Brazil, sits on the floor in one gallery room. The excellent quality of this Brazilian amethyst may be connected to the fact that this was obtained by the museum in 1904.


Amethyst Label

Returning to the cabinets, an unusual English variety of quartz, this is called Babel Quartz, or Babylonquartz. The stepped pattern on the crystals is said to recall the shape of the stepped sides of the Tower of Babylon of Christian mythology.

Babylon Quartz

Another European classic, this time the "eisenblüte", or Floss Ferri, form of aragonite, from Styrian Erzberg, Eisenerz, Styria, Austria


And, from the same area, some excellent cinnabar crystals in dolomite.

Cinnabar in Dolomite

Another nice discovery was this specimen of satin spar (the original calcite variety) from Alston in Cumbria, England. This material was exhausted in the first few years of the 19th century, and is rarely seen these days.

Satin Spar calcite

Of course, classic Habachtal emerald crystals in matrix were on display.

Emerald in Matrix

From the Falkenstein District, Schwaz, Tyrol, Austria, this nice larger specimen with malachite

Malachite, Austria

A large Bleiberg Wulfenite

Bleiberg Wulfenite

And this is interesting, also from Bleiberg, anhydrite as a gangue mineral with galena and sphalerite.


The museum also has an excellent display of cut gemstones of unusual gem minerals.

For example:





.. and ekanite - a radioactive gemstone!


This ornate crafted arrangement of green silk leaves (faded due to the passage of time) and gemstone flowers was a gift in 1760 from Maria Theresia to her husband, Kaiser Franz I.

Gift from Maria Theresia

The museum has one of the largest meteorite galleries in the world, with an impressive selection of meteorites of all types.

Meteorite gallery

They also have within this gallery a piece of the moon rock returned by an Apollo mission as a gift from the USA to the nation of Austria.

Moon Rock

Outside of the mineral galleries are extensive fossil, dinosaur, fish, insect, bird, and animal galleries.


They also have some microscopes set up where you can examine mostly biological samples close-up.

Using the microscope

The upper floor houses the biological collections, and is reached by the grand central staircase, surrounded by the opulent 19th century decoration that you would expect for a royal museum.

The Grand Staircase

The NHM is open every day except Tuesday. It costs 10 euros to enter, and you can find out more by visiting their website.

This article is linked to the following museum: Naturhistorisches Museum (Vienna)

Article has been viewed at least 13917 times.


Great report :)

I especially liked the 'Wall of rocks' display.

Have to visit it eventually. It's always jaw-dropping how many classical nature museums amazing, old specimens.

Thanks for the post!

Bri Dragonne
23rd Jan 2011 1:34pm
Jolyon, is there something new what we do not know about? Who is that beautiful girl from last picture.... ? I didn't saw her last time on exhibition so I think that she is not part of it...

Tomasz Praszkier
23rd Jan 2011 6:33pm
Well spotted! That's Katya, a very good friend of mine and a geologist from Russia.

Katya and Amethyst

This amethyst, by the stairs into the museum galleries, is from 1999, and when you compare it with the 1904 specimen shown above you can see the modern crystals are nowhere near as good as the quality of the old crystals. I do not need to comment on the aesthetic quality of Katya :)

Jolyon & Katya Ralph
23rd Jan 2011 8:06pm
Good friend? We know what does it mean... bad boy!

Tomasz Praszkier
23rd Jan 2011 8:14pm
Ha! no, nothing like that.

Jolyon & Katya Ralph
23rd Jan 2011 9:10pm
Jolyon: You can add the locality Gold Mines River to the gold nuggets from Wicklow - http://www.mindat.org/loc-2043.html .
Excellent specimens, I wonder what other treasures from Ireland are hidden in European museums!

Barry Flannery
24th Jan 2011 2:18pm
I knew you'd like that one Barry, that's why I included it :)

Jolyon & Katya Ralph
24th Jan 2011 5:08pm
Jolyon, thanks for presenting this museum in an article! Being Austrian I am very proud that we have a collection like this in our national heritage.


Branko Rieck
25th Jan 2011 8:58pm
You may also want to add that the Cornish bismuth is (almost certainly) from St Ives Consols.

Peter Haas
26th Jan 2011 3:58am
Thank you Jolyon!

John Truax
3rd Feb 2011 1:21am

Thank you so much for posting this. What an amazing museum!



Eric Stanchich
16th Feb 2011 5:53pm
Below the description of the Moon rock should to be added piece of "Apollo 17 Sample 70017"

Rafael Navarro
15th Nov 2013 12:05am

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