Research and Collections

The Sternberg Museum’s collections are open to visiting researchers. Following CDC guidelines, we request that unvaccinated visitors wear masks while working in the collections; vaccinated visitors do not need to wear masks. Please refer to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment website for travel-related quarantine requirements when planning your visit.


The Sternberg Museum of Natural History houses over three million paleontology, zoology, and geology specimens that document life and environments in the Great Plains region of North America. Consequently, the collections are vital to understanding, measuring, and monitoring the biodiversity of past and present ecosystems of the region. The paleontology collection includes invertebrate and vertebrate specimens representing taxonomic diversity from all Phanerozoic time periods. The paleobotany division houses more than 500,000 fossil plants and has the largest collection of fossil grasses in the world. Zoology specimens are divided into entomology, ichthyology, herpetology, ornithology, mammalogy, and invertebrate zoology holdings. These collections form the backbone of exhibits, research, education, and outreach at the museum.

Most of the specimens are from the Great Plains and adjacent areas, but reference collections from other regions are maintained to facilitate taxonomic, systematic, and molecular research and for educational purposes. The initial paleontological collection was amassed by George Sternberg during his association with Fort Hays State University. The world-famous Elam Bartholomew Herbarium botanical collection was developed as a result of research by mycologist Elam Bartholomew. The diverse zoology collection includes skins, taxidermy mounts, skeletons, fluid-preserved specimens, and a tissue bank. Specimens are continuously added by museum staff, through collaborations with researchers at Fort Hays State University and other institutions, and by landowners and advocational collectors around the country.