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CU Natural History Collections

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Our Collections

The Paleontological Research Institution's collection spans over 2.5 million specimens including invertebrate fossils, deep sea protozoans, mollusks, Triassic-Jurassic vertebrates, fossil plants, fossil fishes, and non-botanical remnants. It is one of the 10 largest in the United States from which the Museum of the Earth draws. The institution's specimens originated in national locales such as New York State, the U.S. Coastal Plains, Connecticut Valley, as well as the Caribbean, Cuba, Jamaica, and the Dominican  Republic. However, there are a myriad of additional originary locations which the collections comprise.

Collection Members

Specific collections showcased by the Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth include:

Microfossils. PRI possesses a microfossil collection initially developed by Helene Jeanne Plummer in the 1950s but recently augmented by Dorothy Palmer with specimen encountered internationally. It contains 5,000 slides of porous shelled marine life (foraminiferals), 600 type specimens, and 10,000 washed residues.

Devonian Specimen. PRI contains items from the Devonian age, a period located 350-415 million years ago! It encompasses trilobites, brachiopods, corals, sponges, bivalves, gastropods, ammonoids, nautiloids, and more. Carlton Brett is one of the many people that has contributed to this collection.


Coral. The institutition possesses a vast coral collection, including recent additions and the Sorauf Coral Collection. The latter holds over 1000 specimens representing more than 100 species gathered from the Caribbean, the Florida Keys and the Philippines.


Fossils. The Jewett fossil Collection developed and sold to Ezra Cornell by Col. Ezekiel Jewett in the 19th century was augmented by Professor Henry Shaler Williams. It contains organisms gathered by Prof. Williams from renowned 19th century paleontologists such as James Dana, William Gabb and James Hall, which gave Cornell its paleontological reputation at the time.

Vertebrates. A particularly stunning collection includes vertebrates collected from the Triassic-Jurassic period, obtained from Nicholas McDonalad, a Connecticut high school teacher, with the assistance of the Triad Foundation’s grant. The Triassic-Jurassic Vertebrate collection includes more than 16,000 specimens of fossil fish, coprolites (fossil feces), plants, and dinosaur footprints.

And much, much more! To search our collection please visit our database at!


Over the decades, PRI has acquired collections from Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, University of Rochester, Alfred University, Wells College, and Tulane University.

Although some of its key collections started with donations/purchases from Helen Jeanne Plummer, Dorothy Palmer, Don Kissling, thanks are due to individual donators who continue to augment the collection, including its directors: Gilbert Harris, its founder; Katherine Palmer, his successor, and Warren Allmon, its current administrator.