Profile - Naturalis – National Museum of Natural History

The mission statement of the Naturalis National Natural History Museum Foundation

We aim to use our unique natural history collection to make a real contribution to furthering the knowledge and appreciation of nature across the widest possible sample of Dutch society.

We therefore want to be THE natural history museum of the Netherlands, operating within an international network.

We will achieve this by:
• Managing the largest archive in the field of natural history in the Netherlands;
• Bringing together knowledge of the diversity of nature, now and in the past, and of mans role therein;
• Adopting various means to make this knowledge accessible and ensure it reaches a wide range of sectors in society.


The new museum building was designed by architect Fons Verheijen and completed in 1998.

Technologically advanced, the design also provides a visual bond between the public and research spaces; with the labs and offices visible from the exhibition areas, and vice versa.

Scaling the heights
The collection tower stands 62 metres tall, rising high above the Leiden skyline. Clad in steel slabs designed to look like snake or fish scales, the tower serves as both archive and treasury, storing over 10 million precious objects in 40 rooms, inside each of which light, humidity and temperature are all precisely controlled.

Step back in time
An 80 metre footbridge connects the new museum to Naturalis reception area, the former Leiden Pesthuis.

A plague on your house
The Pesthuis (literally plague house) dates from 1657-1661 and was designed by Leidens master carpenter, Huybert Corneliszoon van Duyvenvlucht. Although originally built to quarantine and treat plague sufferers, it never actually served that purpose. As by the time it was finished, the Black Death had virtually disappeared from the country.
Instead the building was used in turn as a military hospital, convict prison and national asylum for psychopathic patients. After 1945, it was for many years the Dutch Army Museum.

In the 1980s, the Pesthuis was renovated by Bob van Beek. Its conversion into the Naturalis reception area was Fons Verheijens idea, for which the interior was designed by Gunnar Daan.

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