The Building and Decorative Stone Collection


The NHM Vienna’s collection of building and decorative stones is one of the largest and oldest in the world. Only a small representative part of the total collection is on display in Hall I, with the remaining samples stored in the museum’s basement, where these objects serve as a database for architects, masons, conservators, historians, and artists.

The most common request received by the museum is for information on the origin of a particular stone, ideally the precise location where it was collected, as well as the material’s variety in color and texture.
The collection was initiated by Felix Karrer (1825-1903), who worked for a long time as a volunteer in the Department of Mineralogy and Petrography at the Imperial Natural History Museum and contributed many building and paving stones to the collection.
The idea of a comprehensive archive bringing together the most important building and decorative stones came following a donation from the construction company ‘Union-Baugesellschaft’ in 1878. The collection grew quickly to more than 7,000 specimens after the acquisition of various European stones used in buildings around the Vienna Ring Road. Karrer was personally responsible for registering and describing all the samples. More objects (over 2,000) were given to the NHM Vienna by the Austrian Association of Engineers and Architects. Today the collection contains more than 10,000 objects and is constantly growing thanks to donations and the collecting activities of the department.
A selection of the collection has been on display since 2015 in a redesigned wall showcase in Hall I, which shows the variety of Austrian and European building and decorative stones used from classical antiquity to the present day.