Ignacio Doadrio Villarejo is the Managing Director of Collections and Documentation.
The main goal of a Natural Sciences Museum must be the preservation and expansion of the specimens included within its collection, as they constitute a primary source of information about our natural heritage and an essential research tool.
The National Museum of Natural History collections originated in the Royal Cabinet of Natural History, established in 1771 by Charles III. With holdings that include over 10 million specimens, the Museum is recognised as one of the main resource centres for the study of Spanish and Mediterranean fauna; there is also a good representation of fauna from other biogeographical regions which was added to the collections via the scientific expeditions of 18th and 19th-century Spanish naturalists.
Besides these historical holdings, new material has been gathered through the Museum research projects. As a result, many of these collections have become a key resource in different research areas. The collections are particularly strong in type specimens, which are used to name or describe new species. Holdings include over 40,000 type specimens, and more than 350,000 different species of the animal kingdom.
In addition to preserving the collections and adding new specimens, the Museum is also involved in several research projects on different subjects such as documentation of historic holdings, preservation and management techniques, taxonomic and evolutionary studies, to name but a few.
After recent studies about the biodiversity crisis in the Anthropocene, research on natural history collections has come to the fore. The study of historic series and collections help us understand how habitat changes, global warming and human activities in general have an impact on disease and parasite emergence, and on the adaptation and survival of populations and species. Research on these areas is facilitated by new genetic, morphologic and physiological techniques, all of which have already been implemented in the Museum. The Museum collections are actively integrated within the European Network and offer researchers the opportunity to obtain large-scale data on a wide variety of areas, in order to adequately plan the network of protected areas or to suggest models to analyse changes on the past and future of diversity.
Despite the unfavourable historic circumstances we have faced, we house one of the most important historical archives of natural sciences, as well as a rich representation of specimens in all collections. These collections of great historical value, along with the less invasive, recently added collections - such as the collections of sounds, images or tissues and DNA -, have opened new fields for study, assuring the development of future research in the natural sciences.