HomeAbout the Project

About the Project

In 1879, the three largest museums in the United States were at Harvard, Smithsonian, and the University of Rochester. Zoological and geological species that once were part of the University's Natural History Museum can still be found today in our Biology and Earth & Environmental Studies (EES) Departments. These specimens, along with the correspondence, records, and catalogs associated with Ward's business represent a period in US history when

  1.  Science education was greatly expanding and incorporating the insights of Charles Darwin;
  2. The public was first able to experience nature worldwide through museums, and 
  3. The modern-day conservation movement originated.

One goal of this Project is to learn how the Cabinets at other institutions fared over the last one-hundred-plus years: Do the materials still exist? Are they on display or used in the classroom? If your institution has specimens or records, we hope to hear from you.

A second goal is to share these materials both online and via 3-D printing. A selection of specimens from our collections have been scanned and downloadable files will soon be available.

Learn more about the history of Henry Ward and Ward's Natural Science Establishment:

You can learn more about the manuscript collections by looking at these finding aids:


*In the 19th century, Ward’s Natural Science Establishment collected, purchased, and sold biological specimens believed to be worthy of study. These included human remains, as well as objects of cultural patrimony or considered sacred.

The Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation is interested in assisting with repatriation inquiries where the manuscripts and other documents of the Ward Collections may contain data useful in establishing the origin of materials contained in museums and other institutions.


The Ward Project is funded in part by a PumpPrimer grant from the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, University of Rochester.