Currently, the scientific collection comprises approximately 70,000 specimens. Its annual increment amounts to around 500 items. The first catalogue of acquisitions to the collection dates from the year 1806, however, many specimens date from an even earlier time. The collection is referenced in the scientific literature by the acronym NMW, derived from Naturhistorisches Museum Wien. The geographic scope of the collection is global, the Palaearctic Region is represented best.
The collection consists of skeletons, study skins, furs and stuffed specimens, as well as specimens preserved in alcohol. Study skins are uniformly prepared specimens for scientific purposes. Stuffed specimens are artfully finished for exhibition purposes. They show the animal in the most natural position possible. The collection of mammals preserved in alcohol is small, however it is now in the process of being expanded in view of the fact that DNA for genetic studies is much easier to extract from specimens preserved in alcohol, than in dry preservation.
Study skins, skulls and the major part of the skeletons are stored in huge metal cases in systematic order. Stuffed specimens not on exhibition and skins are located in an air-conditioned basement storage area. The particularly valuable specimens of extinct mammal species (blue buck, quagga, thylacine or Tasmanian wolf, Syrian onager and Somali wild ass) are also stored here for conservation purposes. Mounted skeletons and antlers, as well as whale skulls and skeletons, are stored in adapted basement rooms.
The scientific collection may be accessed by interested persons upon appointment by telephone or in writing.