Collections History

The Natural History Collections were started by the pioneering teachers of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1920 O. Warburg, the first Head of the Institute for the Research of Nature, brought with him a botanical library, to which were added a herbarium collection and a geological collection, the latter purchased from the German geologist Prof. Blankenhorn. In this institute the “founding fathers” of Natural Sciences in Israel – Aharoni, Eig and Bodenheimer – established the basis for the first local scientific collections, and developed extremely important concepts on regional biogeography.

Israel Aharoni started his collections of regional fauna in 1902, when he arrived to Rehovot in Ottoman Palestine and brought with him a new era in the study of the regional fauna. He collected mainly vertebrates, and to a lesser extent insects. In 1925 I. Aharoni founded the zoological collection of the World Zionist Organization. This collection was transferred in 1928 to the newly founded Hebrew University of Jerusalem. O. Theodor arrived in British-ruled Palestine as a pioneer in 1919 and soon became an assistant of Aharoni and the renowned entomologist P.A. Buxton. The latter was at that time the medical entomologist of the Department of Health. Theodor, who subsequently became a faculty member of the Department of Parasitology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, assembled a unique collection of insects of medical importance.

The Herbarium of the Department of Botany of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was established in the early 1920’s. It included collections made in this country by a group of botanists headed by A. Eig, and included M. Zohary and N. Feinbrun. Since that time the Herbarium has grown through collections made by local botanists (especially in Israel and adjacent regions, throughout the Middle East and in other parts of the world), by exchanging material with other herbaria and by gifts received.

Somewhat later, in the 1930’s, Avnimelech and Picard played a pioneering role in the historical geology of the country. Considerable collections started to take place during the 1940’s, at the young Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Despite the fact that the collections were not kept in a natural history museum, but retained the status of private collections of university professors, or in the best of cases, the status of departmental collections, considerable growth was still possible.

When Aharoni joined the Hebrew University, he brought his collections with him to Jerusalem, where they expanded further. Both the bird collection and the mammal collection at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem started with the collections of Aharoni. The mammal collection was later expanded by G. Haas and E. Tchernov.

The collections, containing a wealth of regional documentation from the 1920’s, have been gradually enriched with new regional material: from the Israel South Red Sea Expeditions of 1962 and 1965, from scientific sampling cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean and its islands and since 1967 from the Sinai Peninsula, the Suez Canal, and from Mount Hermon.