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Founded in 1869, the Museum's mission is to discover, interpret, and disseminate—through scientific research and education—knowledge about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe.
Throughout its history, the Museum has made many contributions in exploration, discovery, and technical advances in the natural sciences. Central to these efforts has been the accumulation of one of the world's pre-eminent museum collections—more than 32 million specimens and cultural artifacts—an irreplaceable record of life on Earth, which supports the Museum's cutting-edge research. Today, the Museum is in one of the most active periods of scientific inquiry in its history, including building new types of collections such as frozen tissues and generating genomic data.
In the field of genomic science, the Museum has a unique role: that of exploring the genomes of a great diversity of species. Such research allows scientists to map the evolutionary relationships among organisms—living and extinct—and to use that knowledge for applications that include systematics, conservation, and disease ecology.
The Museum and the Institute's approach considers the 3.8 billion year history of life as a grand biological experiment, one whose observation requires the integration of molecular, anatomical, and paleontological data. That effort has now become the focus for more than 70 research staff and students using facilities that include modern molecular laboratories, substantial bioinformatics capacity, and a frozen-tissue collection facility. These, together with research collaborations with other prominent scientific institutions, position the Museum to enhance its important contributions to genomics research.