Over many decades, donations of local Paleozoic invertebrates and some vertebrate fossil specimens from around the world were made to the paleontology collections. However, the North Museum also preserves very important fossils from the Kinzers Formation, invertebrates that document a time when many of the familiar animal body plans were first evolving on Earth. Some type specimens in paleontology (those named by scientists as the standard for a species) are housed at the North Museum. Tens of thousands of more common invertebrate fossils from local Paleozoic rocks make up the majority of the fossil collections.
The North Museum herbarium is approximately the fourth largest in the State of Pennsylvania and it documents most local species and their distribution on a regional basis. There are other discrete collections, including botanical material from Florida from a period before urbanization. Unusual material also includes an extensive collection of seeds. These specimens can be useful for archaeologists analyzing sites that were once occupied by humans.
The North Museum’s animals without backbones are quite diverse, ranging from simple sponges to historically important insect collections. Many of the objects are on display; others are mounted in boxes or plastic - making them available for casual and more formal educational purposes. Perhaps the most scientifically important specimens are the land snails - these often-ignored animals can be important monitors of changes in land use or environmental disturbances. In total, the North Museum has over 15,000 shells and 16,000 insects - many collected many decades ago.
The North Museum collection of mammals is made up skulls and osteology specimens from mammals of Pennsylvania and around the world. There is some material from all the modern orders and many of the families of mammals. In addition, you’ll find plastic-mounted whole body specimens of smaller species, study skins, and a variety of impressive taxidermy mounts. The Museum maintains rotating exhibits of these specimens for easy viewing and houses additional specimens for research and education.
Aside from some comparative specimens, most of the fish, amphibian, and reptile collections are educational examples encased in plastic - as well as some skeletal material. A large sturgeon caught in the Susquehanna is one of the most popular exhibits at the North, both for its unusual occurrence and because it represents an example of very early taxidermy.