Restoring the paleontological collection of Georg Gasser (1857–1931)

Evelyn Kustatscher, Irene Tomelleri & Alexander Wagensommer

The Museum of Nature South Tyrol hosts the paleontological collection of Georg Gasser, a self-taught naturalist, who assembled the most important historical collection of natural objects of the region. Born in Rentsch, Gasser started his collection probably in 1890, creating the typical “Wunderkammer”. His exhibition contained botanical, zoological, archeological, mineralogical and paleontological specimens. When Gasser died, part of his collection was purchased by the Mineralogical Institute of the University of Padova, whereas some specimens were sold privately. The remaining part of his legacy was donated by the heirs to
form a natural history museum in Bolzano and became the foundation of the Museum of Nature South Tyrol. Thanks to a research project, the Gasser paleontological collection has been given back its former glory, has been digitized using modern techniques and a taxonomical revision is also in progress. The purpose of the research project was to characterize the collection in terms of the number of specimens and species present as well as to understand its stratigraphic and geographical provenance. Composed of paleozoological and paleobotanical objects, the historical collection has the potential to give insights in the scientific memory of the collecting areas during the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the areas that were sampled during those times may no longer be available due to constructions and/or changes in the natural or human-based landscape.

Historical collection, plant fossils, invertebrates, vertebrates, Central Europe

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