Steinhardt Museum of Natural History is the home of the natural history collections of Tel Aviv University of five and a half million items.
The universities Zoological Museum, National Herbarium, National Anthropological Collections, and Collections of Biological Archeology have joined together to establish the museums collection.
The collections document the flora and fauna of Israel and the Middle East for thousands of years, as well as human development and the history of humankind.
The exhibitions at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History include thousands of items, some of them very rare, from the Tel Aviv University’s National Natural History Collections.
The Great Bird Migration
Each year, about 500 million birds migrate over Israel, due to its unique location as a bridge between three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa.
In the autumn most of the birds migrate to Africa, and in the spring they return to Europe and Asia.
Some of them spend the winter (overwinter) in Israel or return to breed here in the summer.
The display of migrating birds, hanging in the entrance lobby of the museum, demonstrates the flight of birds across Israel’s skies.
Sixty-five birds are displayed in this exhibition, including Bonelli’s eagle, an endangered bird of prey breeding in Israel, and the common crane, which comes each year to spend the winter at Agamon Hula.
Israel’s location at the unique intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa, combined with the diverse climatic and soil conditions, form the diverse habitats in a relatively small area.
This exhibition includes six large terrariums that display the range of habitats in Israel and the animals living in them.
Among the 122 animals on display in this exhibition, are different species of animals common in the wild in Israel.
Bugs and Beyond
In this exhibition explores the world of arthropods and studies their behavior and abilities.
The insects in the exhibition include different species of spiders, butterflies, and ants.
A particularly rare item is the jumping ‘peacock spider’ from Australia, with its unique courting behavior.
The male spider spreads out its colorful abdomen in front of the female, just like a peacock, while he dances.
Life in the Dark offers a glance at animals from Israel and around the world that live without daylight, and Urban Nature reveals the city life of wild animals.
Form and Function
Animals are adapted to their living environment and survival needs, such as movement, defense, foraging for food, eating, and finding a mate.
The movement section of the exhibition demonstrates the visual resemblance between animals that move in the same way.
In the exhibition you can see the marked differences in the skull structure of mammals and birds, according to the type of food they eat.
Here you can see diverse creatures from Israel and around the globe, and learn how their body structures and capabilities adapted to their various environments and living conditions.
The Human Impact
This exhibit is an interactive digital exhibition that presents the impact of humans on nature and biodiversity in Israel.
It visually demonstrating the changes in nature in Israel and the region during the last 200 years.
Ecosystem changes and species disappearance are natural processes but the increasing intervention of humans in nature accelerates these processes.
For example, until the 12th century, lions lived in Israel around Mt. Hermon, and in the coastal plain, Negev, Judaean Mountains, and Samaria.
Intensive hunting, by crusaders who came to Israel during this period, led to the extinction of this apex predator from Israel’s landscapes.
The Web of Life
At the entrance to the exhibition, there is an acacia tree and the web of life that takes place around it in the desert.
Further on, displays connections between different organisms in nature: systems of connections that create the food web and connections between a range of organisms that help each other for reproduction, defense, and dispersal.
The exhibition ends with a display that weaves the diversity of connections into a multi-participant, complex system, and emphasizes how our existence depends on the healthy functioning of all systems in nature.
Treasures of Biodiversity
The natural history collections of the museum include more than five and a half million items that were collected in Israel during the last century.
They document fauna and flora and the evolution of the human species over thousands of years.
As part of the exhibition, nine collections selected from the museum’s twenty-four collections are present here.
They display dozens of mammals, birds, and fish and with hundreds of insects, corals, crustaceans and mollusks.
The Father Schmitz Collection is also on display here.
It includes some of the museum’s rarest and most ‘precious’ items:
The last leopard hunted in the Jerusalem Hills, a Nile crocodile that was one of the last crocodiles living in Taninim River, the last cheetah hunted near the Dead Sea, and purebred wildcats that aren’t seen any more in nature in Israel.
Schmitz was one of the only collectors and recorders in the Land of Israel in the early 20th century.
He witnessed a period in which a large number of large vertebrates went extinct in Israel.
Schmitz’s documents describe hunting of brown bears, cheetahs, fish owls, bearded vultures, and crocodiles.
In his records, Father Schmitz also describes animals that are now rare, such as the cinereous vulture, leopard and Verraux’s eagle.
With respect to some animal species, his records and the items he collected are the last documentation of their existence in Israel.
What Makes Us Human?
The What Makes Us Human? exhibition deals with the origin of humans and their evolution from rare findings from archaeological excavations.
It also emphasizes the contribution of ancient populations in Israel to the reconstruction of human history.
Among other things, the exhibition deals with the Agricultural Revolution, which was a turning point in human history.
Our nutrition today is based mainly on the same plants and animals that were domesticated at that time.
The transition to a production economy led to the development of commerce, ownership, and population growth.
In the last part of the exhibition you can see examples of genetic studies that help to reconstruct the origin of contemporary human populations.
For information on visiting hours, ticket prices, how to get there, and accessibility for disabled visitors see the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History website.
The Museum of Jewish History is also located near by and is another one of Tel Aviv Universities museums.