These collections comprise around 230,000 fossils and rock samples that have been depicted or described in a book or scientific article. The types that were used to define a new kind of fossil are particularly important.

The Natural History Museum Basel's collections hold the measuring scales by which a species can be established. A species is determined by the holotype. This exhibits all of the key characteristics that epitomise a species and uniquely define it. A holotype is comparable with the original metre, which was defined in Paris using a bar 100 cm in length. Each unit of measurement of 1 m in length on earth is characterised by exactly the same length.

All type examples, but also the other specimens, have been described in scientific publications. For this reason, the collections are also affiliated with their associated publications. Both the type and reference collections and the publications are accessible to researchers from all over the world.

List of type and reference collections