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Cofrin Center for Biodiversity

Richter Museum of Natural History Collections

The Richter Museum of Natural History contains northeastern Wisconsin's most complete collection of vertebrate specimens and represents this region's largest active natural history depository. Although major collections exist at the Chicago Field Museum, Milwaukee Public Museum, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin, the Richter Museum houses one of the most historically important collections of birds and mammals in the western Great Lakes states. All of the locally breeding bird species, 95% of the mammal species, 80% of the reptile and amphibian species, and 80% of the fish species are represented in the collection. Standard date/locality information is associated with all but a few specimens, while the historical collections of Carl Richter also include original acquisition ledgers, correspondence, field notes, and a reference library.

Taxon

Category

Number of Specimens

Notes

Invertebrates

Fluid specimens

16000

EIS projects and local research

Fishes

Fluid specimens

2790

Regional

Amphibians/Reptiles

Fluid specimens

700

Regional

Birds

Skins

2350

Mainly regional

Birds

Egg sets

12000

N. America/W. Europe

Mammals

Skins/skulls

2200

Mainly regional

Mammals

Recent fossils

10000

Regional/Brussels Hill Cave

Richter's original donation has been followed by the acquisition of several other small egg collections, some dating back to the 1880's. Donations of voucher specimens from environmental impact studies by Dames and Moore, Inc. in Wisconsin and nearby states have added significantly to the collection's diversity. More recently, the Richter Museum has grown as a result of field research by faculty, staff, and students at UW Green Bay. The Museum also is used as a depository for specimens collected or salvaged by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Green Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service. Major environmental assessments associated with a proposed zinc-copper mine near Crandon, Wisconsin, have led to the addition of more than 2000 small mammal specimens, a small number of amphibians, and 200 butterflies. Ongoing projects with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on old growth and managed forests in northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan continue to add small mammal specimens, amphibians, and spiders to the collection. Other recent sources of specimens include bats and birds from an ongoing investigation of mortality at newly constructed wind turbines in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, a biological inventory of the newly established Point Sauble Nature Reserve, and excavation of vertebrate fossils from the state's deepest pit cave near Brussels Wisconsin.

The Egg Collection

In addition to its regional importance, the Richter Museum includes an oological collection of international significance. Starting with Carl Richter's 1975 donation of 10,500 egg sets (some dating to 1884, and many including nests), the Museum today contains more than 12,000 sets, making it the 10th largest oological collection in North America. All of Richter's contributions are fully documented with original field notes and often have correspondence (approximately 5000 letters) or photos (approximately 2000) associated with the acquisition. The oological collection represents more than 90% of North American species and subspecies as identified by the 5th AOU Checklist of North American Birds (the most recent Checklist which includes subspecies). Many species (e.g., Yellow Rail) are represented by long series of egg sets. Richter's personal collection provides a 50 year database for birds of the west shore of Green Bay. Other notable elements of the collection include endangered species such as Whooping Crane, Snail Kite, Kirtland's Warbler, Passenger Pigeon and several other very rare or extinct species. Richter also donated a large series of vertebrate specimens (including nearly 2000 meticulously prepared bird skins), Native American artifacts, geological specimens, and extensive collections of mollusks and butterflies. Today, additions to the Richter Museum’s egg collection come from specimens donated by other museums and estates, and a few salvaged by field  researchers or taken for toxic monitoring.