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How to Start Your Own Natural History Collection

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Start your own natural history collection.

Just like the major natural history museums, you too can have a natural history collection.

Anyone who likes to walk in the woods or along the beach has probably taken home a natural souvenir from their journey’s over the years. You may have even developed quite a nice natural history collection of pinecones, acorns, driftwood, shells, rocks and other natural ephemera. This post will give you some ideas on how to care for and display your collections.

Natural history collecting should be done in a sustainable manner so as not to strip environments. You should remember to be a thoughtful and occasional collector. I like to limit myself to one natural element, whenever I visit a new location, and I might take home an item 2-3 times a year from my regular haunts. Whether a mica fragment, shark tooth, seedpod or mini pine cones, the key for me is to collect natural items to record memorable moments.

Tips and Ideas for Creating Your Own Natural History Collection

  • Identification - The Peterson Field Guides are simply the best tools for nature identification. They are broken down by region and type of flora and fauna. Titles run the gamut from "Rocks and Minerals", "Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America" and "Shells of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts". You can find them at local libraries or source them at online used sellers.
  • Long-term Storage - If you want your natural history collections to last, you may want to consider archival and acid-free storage solutions. Light Impressions is a great resource for archival supplies.
  • Coffee Table Display - If you aren’t as concerned with storing your collection in perpetuity, but actually want to display it, a shadowbox coffee table is ideal. Make your own with this tutorial.
  • Terrarium Display - Another fun way to display your natural collection is with a terrarium. Acorns, pine-cones, shells and rocks can all be displayed in your terrarium to add visual interest.
  • Make a Mobile or Garland - Finally, a creative way to display your natural history collections is to make a DIY mobile or garland. Use ribbon, bakers’ twine or twine to hang your collection. See a tutorial here.
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