The Museum of Natural History, Wroclaw University, came into existence through a fusion of the former zoological and botanical museums and herbarium, i.e. institutions which originally functioned independently within the University or as branches of its institutes. The Zoological Museum came into being in 1814, soon after the establishment of the secular University of Wroc3aw, which was then German (1811). It was founded through the care of Prof. Johann Ludwig Christian Gravenhorst and initially housed in the main edifice of the University at Plac Uniwersytecki. Since the very beginning the collections gathered here were for the purpose of science, education and exhibitions open to the public.
Among the most meritorious scientists, whose collections have been preserved until today and used mainly for scientific purpose, (e.g. descriptive types), were professors Adolph Eduard Grube, Carl Chun, Willy Kükenthal, Ferdynand Pax junior. In 1904 the collections, supervised by W. Kükenthal, were transferred to the current building, erected specially for the Museum.
During World War II, when Wroclaw was besieged (Festung Breslau), the building was bombed. Its whole wing having collapsed and the exhibitions, except the Skeletal Hall, got totally ruined, like the rooms intended for didactic purposes. Ca. 50% of the scientific collections survived the war, after which the Museum was taken over by the Polish University authorities. The collections preserved were safeguarded in the charge of Prof. Kazimierz Sembrat and the first curator Doc. Jan Kinel as well as Doc. Zofia Kozikowska (all from Lvov). The building was renovated, partly reconstructed and the collections secured. The modernization of the building, rearrangement of the collections and organization of the first exhibitions were supervised by Prof. Wladyslaw Rydzewski, the present patron of the Museum. In 1974, on the initiative of Prof. Rydzewski within the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Wrocław University, an institute was distinguished. Due to its profile, the new institution incorporated both zoological and botanical collections.
The botanical collection, created in 1821 on the initiative of Ludolph Christian Treviranus was initially a herbarium at the Botanical Garden. Later, through the efforts of Prof. Heinrich Robert Goeppert, the Botanical Museum was established. Other people of merit include Prof. Carl Adolf Jerzy Lauterbach, who bequeathed to these institutions his huge herbarium collected during an expedition to Melanesia and New Guinea. Another distinguished person was Prof. Ferdynand Pax senior.
During World War II ca. 60% of the botanical collection sustained heavy damage, and all what was saved at different places was again consolidated into one herbarium and secured in the reconstructed building at Kanonia street. Also "Herbarium Silesiacum", which before the war belonged to the society Schlesische Gesellschaft für Vaterländische Kultur, was incorporated to the botanical collection. The cataloguing and preservation activities as well as the new arrangement were initiated by Prof. Krzysztof Rostanski, the most meritorious person in the post-war history of this collection.
Guide to the Museum of 1925
Fürer durch die Schausammlungen des Zoologischen Museums in Breslau von Professor Dr. Pax
The most important publications concerning the Museum of Natural History:
Wiktor J. 1987. Muzeum Przyrodnicze Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego – Historia i Ludzie (1814–1994). Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego. Wrocław. 130 pp., 67 ryc. (tu bogate piśmiennictwo, chronologia, nazwiska itp.).