Illini 411: Wasn’t there a bison in the Natural History Building?

Question courtesy of Erik Chapman, ’09 LAS

Photo illustration of a bison and a building (Image courtesy of Dana Smith)
Question courtesy of Erik Chapman, ’09 LAS

A: Indeed, there was. An American bison, it was taxidermied in the 1870s and is thought to have been displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair before the University acquired it. The bison was one of the highlights of the Natural History Museum that occupied the Natural History Building from 1910 to 2001. After the museum closed, its 420,000 plant, animal and mineral specimens were dispersed. Today, some of them are still on campus at the Spurlock Museum and the Prairie Research Institute. The bison is part of PRI’s Illinois Natural History Survey and is prominently displayed inside the lobby of the Forbes Natural History Building, located in Research Park (not to be confused with the Natural History Building on the Quad).

Have questions about U of I history, traditions and legends?

Write to Illini 411 at The most delectable questions will be selected for publication.