Founded on December 19, 1895, as Natural History Museum of the Serbian Land, it is one of the oldest specialised scientific institutions set up in Serbia. It is a museum with long-established tradition and rich experience, dense international connections of long standing, and collections with nearly million specimens, which makes it one among largest museums in south-eastern Europe. Over the past hundred years the Museum has exerted a strong influence on cultural, scientific, and educational development in Serbia.
The Museum is primarily concerned with conservation of the so-called movable (ex situ) natural heritage. Since the foundation, its main objectives have been the discovering and locating of natural wealth. Museum collections include several hundreds of type specimens (holotypes), marked as scientific standards for species, subspecies, varieties, or forms. On an average, the Museum acquires between 5000 and 10000 items per year. The Museum collections have been the subject of the graduation, master, and doctoral degree studies of many scientists, university professors and members of academies. Some of the most important scientific monographs have been based on the referent collections of the Museum. Certain collections are so entirely complete that they practically represent everything of interest that can be found in Serbia. From 1995 a collection of about 600 cloud images is growing each year.
The Geological Sector consists of two departments, those of Mineralogy and Petrology, and Palaeontology, with a shared Geological laboratory. The collections of the Geological Sector are among the oldest in the Museum and boast a rich tradition of studies of gea (rocks, minerals, meteorites, and fossils) and the history of mining.
The Biological Sector comprises three departments: Department of Botany, Mycology and Lichenology, Zoological Department of Vertebrates comprising the Centre for Animal Marking, and Zoological Department of Invertebrates, and a shared Biological laboratory. The collections of the Biological Sector include most diverse taxonomic groups of fauna, flora and fungi, as well as objects of significance to the history of hunting and fishing.
Research unit is a centre of scientific work not only for the museum curators, but also for numerous scientists from the country and abroad. Museum takes part in a wide range of international programmes on the conservation of biodiversity, fragile ecosystems, etc.
The Library counts among the oldest specialised libraries in Serbia. It has a large number of old and rare books, the first issues and complete volumes of numerous renowned natural-history journals from all over the world. The Library holdings include more than 22000 book titles, more than 300 manuscripts, around 1000 geographic and geological chart sheets and 1150 journal titles. The first issue of The Bulletin of the Natural History Museum of Serbian Land, Series A, Mineralogy, Geology, Palaeontology was published in 1948. Already in the following year there appeared the first issue of the Series B, Biological Sciences.
Natural History Museum objects were first displayed officially at the World Exhibition in Paris, far back in 1900. Museum does not have its own adequate exhibition space. Only the small Gallery which is located at the Belgrade fortress. In addition to classic thematic and study natural-history exhibitions, Gallery offers photograph shows, artistic installations, and other forms of the art show inspired by nature.