The Rutgers University Insect Collection (1888-2019): History of a New Jersey Treasure Twice Saved

David Moskowitz


The little-known Rutgers University Insect Collection (1888-2019) is one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of New Jersey insects in the world. It was conceived in 1888 by the Reverend George Hulst, the first director, and the first acting professor of entomology of the Rutgers Department of Entomology. Then beginning in 1889, through the tireless efforts and vision of Professor John B. Smith, the second entomologist at Rutgers, a foundation was built that would take the collection well into the twenty-first century. Over the next 130 years, the collection grew through the efforts of many more pillars of the Rutgers Department of Entomology and now has more than 200,000 insect specimens and continues to grow in breadth, purpose and importance. It is essentially a “library of biodiversity” of the state providing a view into New Jersey’s past and present natural history. It also has a storied past and was rescued twice, once from fire in 1903 and then from neglect in 2003. The collection is a legacy to many great Rutgers entomologists and alumni, past and present, that helped build the collection; many who were, and are, renowned pillars in the field of entomology. Their work has had a lasting impact on insect classification, insect disease control, and agricultural production, not just in New Jersey, but across the world. The collection is irreplaceable and is a Rutgers University and a New Jersey treasure.

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