The geoscience collections have existed since the Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum was established. While the collections initially included considerable mineral donations, they now primarily contain fossils from the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic periods as well as samples of Upper Austria’s diverse stones.
The collection was founded in 1833 and since that time has primarily consisted of donations of minerals from St. Peter’s monastery and the k. k. Hofmineralienkabinett [Imperial mineral collection] in Vienna. It was first maintained by Mag. Karl Ehrlich in 1841. His work concentrated on the geological research of Upper Austria and the expansion of palaeontology. An additional milestone was the 1855 purchase of part of the collection of renowned Johann Georg Ramsauer, Imperial Bergmeister (Magister montium) in Hallstatt. The collection includes several hundred ammonites from the Hallstatt limestone of the Salzkammergut.
The heretofore substantial increase in the geoscience collections was set up under Prof Hans Commenda in the new Museums Francisco-Carolinum building completed in 1895. The collections were subsequently maintained and scientifically reviewed by Dr Theodor Kerschner, later by Dr Josef Spillmann and Dr Josef Schadler. After WWII, Dr Wilhelm Freh became head of the geoscience collection and focused primarily on the mineralogical collection. From 1971 to 1980 the department was managed by Univ.-Doz. Dr Hermann Kohl – his main focus was on Quaternary research in Upper Austria. From 1980 to 2007 the collections were curated by Dr Bernhard Gruber and from 2008 by Dr Björn Berning.
The focus of the geoscience collections is on the paleontological collection. The majority of the objects came from Upper Austria, countries of the former imperial monarchy as well as around the globe. Acquisitions accrue through donations, purchases and in-house collections.
- Palaeontological collection: Approx. 120,000 fossils (vertebrates, invertebrates, plant fossils), particularly noteworthy: The Hallstatt Triassic cephalopod from the Johann Georg Ramsauer collection as well as several types of whales, manatees and proboscideans.
- Mineralogical collection: Approx. 20,000 minerals and mineral specimens, primarily from Austria. Important units are the collections of Prof Erich Wilhelm Ricek and Ing. Karl Götzendorfer.
- Petrographic collection: Approx. 4,000 stones, primarily from the Mühlviertel and Upper Austria’s northern limestone alps.
The focus on researching the collection holdings is particularly on Upper Austrian fossils from the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic periods. International scientists taxonomically and systematically research above all the marine animals (whales and manatees) and land mammals (rhinoceroses, proboscideans) of the Oligocene and Miocene periods.
An additional research focus is on the analysis of the animal phyla of the bryozoans (Moss animals) with respect to their biodiversity, ecology, distribution and evolution. The Eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean region (which includes the Upper Austrian Molasse Basin) as well as the Western Indian Ocean during the past 30 million years are researched.
Ongoing projects are in particular involved with the fossils and living bryozoans of the islands and seamounts of the North-eastern Atlantic.