A collection is defined as the bringing together of objects of the same kind, chosen in terms of various criteria, whether this might be their value, their aesthetic qualities or their rarity. The collection may, in short, take as many forms as there are collectors. The only limits are the availability of objects, interest and the imagination of the collector.
A collection is defined as the bringing together of objects of the same kind, chosen in terms of various criteria, whether this might be their value, their aesthetic qualities or their rarity. The collection may, in short, take as many forms as there are collectors. The only limits are the availability of objects, interest and the imagination of the collector.

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.

Collections do not all have the same raison d’être behind them. In general, there are five types of collection.

- Professional or amateur collection
- Research collection
- Reference collection
- Educational collection
- Exhibit collection

To these five types of collections, could be added specialized teaching collections.

Collections do not all have the same raison d’être behind them. In general, there are five types of collection.

- Professional or amateur collection
- Research collection
- Reference collection
- Educational collection
- Exhibit collection

To these five types of collections, could be added specialized teaching collections.

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.

Whether it is a professional or an amateur collection, it always has a value in the eyes of its owner.

An amateur collector often accumulates objects that have, to him, an aesthetic value, but he may also acquire objects that are curiosities, samples collected in nature or sports cards or other things. The monetary value is not usually of primary importance. A heightened level of interest allied with a greater knowledge of the objects collected makes our amateur a knowledgeable amateur.

On the other hand, professional collectors devote their lives to their collections and earn their living building up the collections. They buy and sell objects. Antique dealers, philatelists and coin collectors are among this type of collector. A professional is defined as a person who specializes in a specific area. An entomologist is a professional of the insect world just as an antique dealer specializes in old or ancient objects. However, their goals are very different. The entomologist does not make a business of his collection. Often, he contributes to developing and enriching research or reference collections that he will eventually use for scientific or documentary pu Read More
Whether it is a professional or an amateur collection, it always has a value in the eyes of its owner.

An amateur collector often accumulates objects that have, to him, an aesthetic value, but he may also acquire objects that are curiosities, samples collected in nature or sports cards or other things. The monetary value is not usually of primary importance. A heightened level of interest allied with a greater knowledge of the objects collected makes our amateur a knowledgeable amateur.

On the other hand, professional collectors devote their lives to their collections and earn their living building up the collections. They buy and sell objects. Antique dealers, philatelists and coin collectors are among this type of collector. A professional is defined as a person who specializes in a specific area. An entomologist is a professional of the insect world just as an antique dealer specializes in old or ancient objects. However, their goals are very different. The entomologist does not make a business of his collection. Often, he contributes to developing and enriching research or reference collections that he will eventually use for scientific or documentary purposes.

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.

Framed Butterflies

Framed Butterflies

Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.


• The research collection is a professional tool that makes it possible to better understand the subject of the collection. In a research collection, the object or specimen may be collected for itself, but equally importantly, with a goal of understanding the much larger group or entity to which it belongs.
• Example: A researcher collects butterflies in a field where pesticides have been used and in a field managed organically. This collection therefore contains several butterflies collected in different environments which will allow comparisons of the environments as well as the specimens.

• The research collection is a professional tool that makes it possible to better understand the subject of the collection. In a research collection, the object or specimen may be collected for itself, but equally importantly, with a goal of understanding the much larger group or entity to which it belongs.
• Example: A researcher collects butterflies in a field where pesticides have been used and in a field managed organically. This collection therefore contains several butterflies collected in different environments which will allow comparisons of the environments as well as the specimens.

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.

Butterfly Case

Butterfly Case

Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.


A reference collection is made up of type specimens representative of a given group. In this type of collection, each element is, in its way, a model that may be compared to similar objects or specimens that are to be named, identified and classified.
A reference collection is made up of type specimens representative of a given group. In this type of collection, each element is, in its way, a model that may be compared to similar objects or specimens that are to be named, identified and classified.

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.

Reference collections of seeds, 1911 – Department of Agriculture

Reference collections of seeds, 1911 – Department of Agriculture

Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.


A number of museums have educational collections. The objects or specimens in these collections are of less value than those kept in permanent collections, but they have the advantage that they can be handled and submitted to less demanding conservation conditions. Direct access by the public adds an important dimension to the educational role of museums.
A number of museums have educational collections. The objects or specimens in these collections are of less value than those kept in permanent collections, but they have the advantage that they can be handled and submitted to less demanding conservation conditions. Direct access by the public adds an important dimension to the educational role of museums.

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.

The nature counter at the Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke

The nature counter at the Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke

Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.


Exhibition collections or collections for enjoyment are often made up of objects having great aesthetic and artistic value. These are the province of museums and art galleries. In these exhibits, visitors, however, may discover other types of objects, of a historical or scientific nature, coming from extremely varied sources such as private or public collections, including educational, research and reference collections. In fact, objects presented in an exhibit may be used in other contexts than that for which they were acquired by the museum. Furthermore, not all the objects in an exhibition necessarily come from the same collection.
Exhibition collections or collections for enjoyment are often made up of objects having great aesthetic and artistic value. These are the province of museums and art galleries. In these exhibits, visitors, however, may discover other types of objects, of a historical or scientific nature, coming from extremely varied sources such as private or public collections, including educational, research and reference collections. In fact, objects presented in an exhibit may be used in other contexts than that for which they were acquired by the museum. Furthermore, not all the objects in an exhibition necessarily come from the same collection.

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.

Corridor of wonders at the Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke

Corridor of wonders at the Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke

Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.


This type of collection is mainly addressed to a school or university clientele. Objects in this collection are often manipulated as they are observed, compared, analyzed and identified. They complete in a stimulating and motivating way the theoretical part of some courses.
This type of collection is mainly addressed to a school or university clientele. Objects in this collection are often manipulated as they are observed, compared, analyzed and identified. They complete in a stimulating and motivating way the theoretical part of some courses.

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.

Collection of skulls

Collection of skulls

Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.


Anyone can become a collector, but museums are the best places to store the countless objects that bear witnesses to the past. The museum represents more or less the collective memory of a civilization. It brings together different objects with the goal of preserving them in the best possible condition and allowing all who are interested to view them and learn from them. The museum preserves its holdings for future generations.
Anyone can become a collector, but museums are the best places to store the countless objects that bear witnesses to the past. The museum represents more or less the collective memory of a civilization. It brings together different objects with the goal of preserving them in the best possible condition and allowing all who are interested to view them and learn from them. The museum preserves its holdings for future generations.

© 2010, Musée de la nature et des sciences inc. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

• Define what a collection is;

• Talk about the different types of collections;

• Look for answers or solutions to scientific and technological problems.


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