For the naturalists of the 19th century their main sources of information were the collections themselves, and they travelled to the ends of the earth to enrich them. Specimens were gathered directly by the scientists or by professional collectors. The demand was such that a sizeable business in buying and selling emerged.

Animals, plants, minerals and fossils were collected, prepared for conservation, transported, and finally stored in collections, laboratories and museums to be studied. They were neither trophies nor ornaments, but instruments for a scientific understanding of the world and of the human being. The Royal Seminary collection is especially rich in zoology, and though much time has passed it remains the custodian of valuable scientific information.