The Collections Of The ‘Grigore Antipa’ National Museum Of Natural History

see Gallery The cultural and historical essence, identity and creative source of a nation all reside in its cultural heritage. It therefore has considerable historical, aesthetic, sociological and scientific value, and should be protected by society through laws, institutions and sufficient funding. No effort should be spared to preserve and pass on one's heritage. The history of the 'Grigore Antipa' Museum spans more than 170 years. The first National History and Antiquities Museum was founded by ruler Alexandru Dimitrie Ghica, through the Royal Act no. 142 from November 3, 1834.Grigore Antipa was the one who organised and managed the modern museum for more than five decades, between 1893 and 1944. From this time onwards, the museum has served as a research institute, collections deposit and a teaching institution for popularizing science. It is primarily the collections of a museum that determine its value, along with its national and international rank. Several generations of researchers and curators have painstakingly set up, expanded and preserved the Antipa Museum collections. Their activities ranged from gathering specimens in the field and identifying both vertebrate and invertebrate species, to preparing, labelling and conserving them. The collections of the 'Grigore Antipa' Museum are currently being enriched through: specimen gathering and field observations (in accordance with the laws regarding the protection and conservation of the species) purchases (especially of rare items absent from the collections) donations exchanges of specimens with other museums. A Brief History of the Museum CollectionsAs previously mentioned, the museum was founded on November 3, 1834 at the initiative and on the basis of the donation of Lord Mihalache Ghica, the Foreign Minister. The initial collections included 150 minerals, 213 molluscs, as well as fish, mammals and fossils. The first and second museum managers, Carol Wallenstein (1837-1859), and respectively Carlo Ferreratti (1860-1867) from the Turin Museum, soon added new specimens obtained through exchanges with other museums. Professor Gregoriu Ştefănescu then took over the museum (1867-1893) and focused primarily on expanding the geology and palaeontology collections.A remarkable expansion occurred once Grigore Antipa became the next museum manager, in 1893. A notable and generous donation of that time came from the physician Hilarie Mitrea (1882 and 1895), consisting of animal specimens and ethnographical artefacts from the Indonesian Archipelago. Grigore Antipa invested a lot of effort in enriching the museum collections with valuable and exotic items. He established contacts with importing companies from Austria, Germany, etc. and encouraged donations (from both local and foreign sponsors – explorers, scientists, diplomats, etc.). The museum grew from the 2,038 specimens that Grigore Antipa took over in 1893, to more than 200,000, the most spectacular of which were exhibited in the permanent modern collection. The collections expanded once more after 1964, when Mihai Băcescu (member of the Romanian Academy) was appointed manager. He focused on supporting the museum specialists in their research of the Romanian and world fauna. More new specimens entered the collections after 1990, as a result of a project evaluating the local biodiversity, but also of other museum expeditions. The 'Grigore Antipa' Museum of Natural History currently is the largest and richest institution of its kind in Romania. Its collections cover almost two million local and global vertebrates and invertebrates (both fossil and living). They are divided into 132 sections (zoology, palaeontology, ethnography, anthropology, geology, compared anatomy). The museum is thus preserving a slice of local and global biodiversity, and is therefore a precious source of information for Romanian zoologists. The most important specimens are being digitalized and researched, so that the museum also becomes an information centre for biodiversity researchers. Overview of the Museum Collections The museum owns 7,000 type specimens of foreign fauna (mostly invertebrate) of truly great scientific value, since they were used in identifying new species. Most of the collection items are properly preserved in special storage rooms and unfortunately only a small part of the exhibits are available to the public. The invertebrate collections (over half a million specimens, with the exception of insects) contain more than 1,857 spongiae, coelenterates (coral) and echinoderms (sea urchins and starfish), Black Sea invertebrates (the highly valuable collection of Mihai Băcescu), 250,000 global molluscs (shells, snails, cuttlefish, octopuses etc.), crustaceans and arachnids.The mollusc collection was started in the 19th-early 20th century by the scientists Eduard Albert Bielz, Arnold Lucien Montandon and Ion P. Licherdopol. It was subsequently expanded through expeditions (Mauritania 1971, Tanzania 1973-1974, Djibouti 1977, the Indonesian Archipelago 1991), donations (the notable collection of Professor Alexandru A. Grossu, with tens of thousands of animals covering almost the entire Romanian fauna) and acquisitions (the exotic molluscs of Professor Anghelie Bardan). The local and international (Cuba, Iceland) expeditions of the museum researchers have further contributed to the enrichment of the mollusc collection. In order to regenerate its collections after the devastating 1977 earthquake, the 'Grigore Antipa' Museum had to initiate exchanges with peer institutions, such as the Australian Museum in Sydney, the Smithsonian Institute and the National Museums of Paris or Beijing. Some of the molluscs are preserved in alcohol, others just as valves and shells.A specimen of remarkable scientific value is Neopilina ewingi, a Palaeozoic fossil of 12/10 mm, retrieved from the bottom of the Pacific by the American expedition on the Anton Bruun (1965). The leader of the expedition offered it to the Antipa Museum manager Mihai Băcescu, in recognition for services rendered on the mission. Mainly set up by the museum researchers and specialists, the crustacean collection (crabs, shrimps, crayfish etc.) is the richest in Romania. It counts 103,000 specimens-more than 1,500 global species collected from the Equator to the Polar Regions, from the water surface or from a depth of more than 6,000 m. The high value of this collection also resides in the 2,100 type specimens, the first to be identified of their species. The arachnid collection created in the 1950's now counts 57,000 specimens from almost 950 species, 95% of which are local. It also includes the exquisite spider collection 'Cleopatra Sterghiu–Ion Fuhn', donated by the Biology Institute of the Romanian Academy. The rich insect collection consists of circa one million specimens, collected over a period of more than a century. It covers locusts and grasshoppers, dragonflies, neuropterans, earwigs, praying mantises, stick/leaf insects, cockroaches, cicadas, mecopterans, mallophaga, bugs, trichopterans, butterflies, bees, wasps, ants, flies, gadflies or mosquitoes from all over the world. The heteropteran collection (bugs) incorporates over 34,000 specimens. A world-renowned and much consulted part of it is the 'Arnold Lucien Montandon' collection of 12,000 heteropterans from all over the world, which has been housed by the 'Grigore Antipa' National Museum of Natural History for almost a century now. It also includes 150 holotypes, after which new species were identified and which naturally increase its scientific value. The more recent collection of Romanian heteropterans has brought together 10,000 specimens from all known families. The coleopteran collection (beetles) counts more than 210,000 insects and was put together through the efforts of Deszö Kenderessy (a Transylvanian entomologist), Friedrich Deubel (an amateur entomologist from Braşov), Eduard Fleck (an amateur entomologist from Azuga), and Dr. Nicolae Săvulescu. It considerably grew after 1975, through nationwide fieldwork-in the Wallachian Plain, the Danube Delta, Vrancea, Porţile de Fier, Maramureş, Piatra Craiului, Dobrogea, Banat or the Făgăraş Mountains. It was also enriched through expeditions abroad: Indonesia 1991, Brazil 1994, Turkey, Bulgaria 2005 and 2006, Tunisia 2007 or Syria 2008. Last but not least, new specimens were added to the collection through donations made by specialists and amateurs, or through exchanges between Romanian and foreign specialists and collectors.The Museum also houses Romania's largest and most valuable butterfly collection-more than 230,000 butterflies belonging to 25,000 species. A most treasured part of the collection used to belong to Prince Aristide Caradja and comprises circa 80,000 specimens from Central and Southern Europe, the Middle East, Eastern Siberia, Central and Southern China, North-Western Africa, Central and South America, India, Malaysia and Australia. The 3,200 type butterflies after which new species were identified should also be mentioned here, as they naturally add to the overall value of the collection. Macro-/microlepidopterans and mine insects were collected and donated to the museum by Franz Salay, Adriano Ostrogovich, Aurelian Popescu-Gorj and Ion Drăghia.The hymenopteran collection (bees, bumble bees, wasps, ants) is made up of almost 85,000 insects (3,000 global) retrieved by specialists Victoria Iuga-Raica and Xenia Scobiola-Palade after World War II. The initial dipteran collection was purchased in 1911 in Dresden by Grigore Antipa and contained insects representative of most known species. It was then enriched through the efforts of researcher and collector Medeea Weinberg. Most of the 172,000 dipterans now owned by the museum are Romanian. Also to be noted here is the chironomidae collection, consisting of 141,505 insects donated by the Biology Institute of the Romanian Academy and collected by Nicolae Botnariuc (member of Romanian Academy) and Dr. Paula Albu in the 1950's. The 'Grigore Antipa' National Museum of Natural History also owns a considerable collection of 46,000 vertebrates.Most notable among the 20,000 fish that form the ichthyologic collection are the large sturgeons and some currently extinct Romanian species gathered by Grigore Antipa. The collection of Mihai Băcescu, a naturalist with a wide range of interests who focused mostly on oceanography and carcinology, is also to be noted here. In 1999, the Biology Institute of the Romanian Academy donated the 'Bănărescu-Nalbant' freshwater fish collection. Its more than 10,000 specimens retrieved from Romanian, Asian and North American rivers are currently preserved in alcohol and formaldehyde. It is the largest ichthyologic collection in Romania, famed for freshwater fish, and one of the richest in the world for Cyprinid fish. The museum also houses a herpetological collection of more than 5,500 local and exotic (especially African) amphibians and reptiles. Some of the specimens were collected and donated by Hilarie Mitrea in the Indonesian Archipelago, others by Franz Werner Steindachner, manager of the Vienna Museum, or by Ionel Fuhn. The Antipa Museum researchers have also brought back reptiles from their expeditions in Indonesia and Brazil. A valuable specimen is the highly rare or probably extinct Romanian "sand boa" (Eryx jaculus), found by Robert von Dombrowski before World War I. The ornithological collection consists of 11,500 birds and circa 10,000 remnants of undigested food. The birds are exhibited stuffed, skinned, preserved in alcohol or just as skeletons, together with their nests and eggs. One of the initial museum collections founded in 1834, it was enriched by dedicated ornithologists such as Carol Wallenstein, Robert Ritter von Dombrowski, I. P. Licherdopol, Aurel Papadopol or Matei Tălpeanu. It is the largest and most important collection of Romanian birds, with more than 310 species and over 5,000 specimens, some of which are quite rare or unique. It also includes exotic and valuable species, such as a dodo bird (Raphus cucullatus) from the Mauritius Island, hunted to extinction in the 17th century.The mammal collection counts over 9,500 specimens (from 923 species), which are exhibited stuffed, skinned, preserved in liquid or as skeletons, skulls and trophies. The collection has been growing with the help of Hilarie Mitrea (the main museum donor), Dr. Emil Holub, Dimitrie and Nicolae Ghika-Comăneşti, Dr. Eberle and Kelish, the Umlauff Museum in Hamburg or the National Museum from Beijing. The remarkable value of most specimens derives from their history, or from the fact that some represent extinct or extremely rare and vulnerable Romanian species. The most notable exotic exhibits are the Daubentonia madagascariensis (aye-aye, a Madagascar monkey), Okapia johnstoni (genus described as late as 1901), Elaphurus davidianus (milu or Père David's Deer), Tragulus napu, Moschiola meminna (pygmy deer), Nasalis larvatus (proboscis monkey) or Panthera uncia (snow leopard).The 8,000 fossils in the palaeontology collection were primarily discovered or acquired by the museum managers Gregoriu Ştefănescu and Grigore Antipa. There are of course several major specimens, such as the Deinotherium gigantissimum, discovered in 1890 by Gregoriu Ştefănescu at Mânzaţi, Vaslui County, or the mastodon, the giant deer and the Ichthyosaurus found in Germany. This collection is quite crucial, as it helps researchers trace the evolution of species and the phylogenetic relations between them. The compared anatomy collection has brought together 1,700 exhibits, such as the skeletons of vertebrate species, organs, systems or full bodies preserved in alcohol/formaldehyde. The most notable specimen is the skeleton of a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), purchased by Grigore Antipa from Prague in 1907. The geology collection consists of 4,400 mineral samples, rocks, gems, fossil wood, meteorites and tektites, both from Romania and from the rest of the world. Their value is more of a historical nature, as they were acquired over 150 years ago. The museum also houses circa 950 exhibits from all over the world in its ethnography and anthropology collections, most of which are highly valuable and rare (such as zanza heads or fardo mummies). The initial items were donated at the end of the 19th century by the physician Hilarie Mitrea and by the Ghica-Comăneşti family, which had organized a large hunting trip in Africa. The collection grew with the acquisitions made by Grigore Antipa and subsequent donations. Finally, the Antipa Museum has the responsibility of solving any patrimonial issues and of managing, researching, inventorying, restoring, preserving and displaying patrimony items. The museum specialists are charged with publishing the results of their research in scientific papers and with organizing the collections. Last but not least, the institution is currently running several educational programs for children. Translated by Brânduşa Ciugudean

by Melanya Stan