McCardell Bicentennial Hall is home to a number of physical collections supporting research and instruction at Middlebury College.
Insects and Arachnids
The Duncan MacDonald Insect Collection is a remarkable assemblage of preserved insects covering all major and several minor insect groups primarily from Vermont over roughly a half-century. Along with the accompanying arachnid collection, containing many spiders from these same areas over the past few decades, we have a thorough and valuable resource for viewing or study. Student and faculty researchers, professional biologists, and classes use the collections to study variations in form and distribution patterns over time, climate, location, and other factors. Students and faculty continue to add to the collection every year. In addition, they have stunningly beautiful displays of many groups and some uncommon individual specimens. One can access the collections by contacting the Biology Department.
The Earth and Climate Sciences Department houses an extensive collection of minerals for teaching and display purposes. The teaching collection, covering the whole gamut of mineral types, has been collected by Middlebury faculty, from the mid-19th century to the present. The exquisite Safford Collection, donated by the late Arthur Safford, a mineral enthusiast who collected minerals around the world, is displayed in floor cabinets at the entrance to Armstrong Science Library and in the Great Hall. A collection of classic Vermont minerals can be seen in display cases outside the Earth and Climate Sciences Department on the fourth floor of McCardell Bicentennial Hall.
The Department of Biology curates a collection of over 3,500 botanical specimens dating to the late 1870s. Most of the collections were made by Henry Seely, Class of 1894 and Ezra Brainerd, Class of 1864 and president of the College from 1885 to 1907. Brainerd was a specialist of violets. The herbarium also contains modern specimens collected by students of Biology of Plants classes since 1998.
The Department of Biology also curates an extensive collection of several thousand birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians for study and lab use. The collection of bird skins, eggs, and taxodermic mounts incude the Albert Mead, Class of 1890 and Chester Parksill collections, dating primarily from the late 1800s. Included in this collection is a specimen of a passenger pigeon, extinct as a species since 1914. The collection of mammal skins and skeletons includes the Harold Hitchcock and David Van Vleck collections from the 1950s and 1960s, containing specimens from every order and family of mammals in the region. The preserved specimens of fish, reptiles, and amphibians derive primarily from in and around Lake Champlain.
Antique Scientific Instruments
The Antique Scientific Instruments Collection captures the history of laboratory science at Middlebury College, from the early 19th to the early 20th century. Beautiful examples of workmanship, these pieces are still used in classes, both in labs and increasingly in humanities courses. They represent a bridge between science and humanities, linking the 19th century’s rapid rise of scientific inquiry and understanding with the evolving esthetics, innovations, and philosophical trends of the time. As curation activities continue, the collection can be viewed in Armstrong Science Library.
The collection is actively used within curricular settings across the liberal arts—from chemistry and biochemistry, neuroscience, and physics to American studies, history of art and architecture, and sociology and anthropology. Beyond the classroom, active curation, exhibition, preservation, and hands-on use extends broadly, including theatre, Special Collections and Archives, and the Museum of Art.
A subset of the collection is on extended loan to the Smithsonian Institution at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
View a subset of the Antique Scientific Instruments Collection at Middlebury Digital Collections.