The National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History was founded in October 1889 on the basis of the collection of exhibits of the first agricultural exhibition of Bessarabia at the initiative of Baron A. Stuart. Thus, it is the oldest museum in the Republic of Moldova, functioning at the moment. First there was the Museum of Agriculture, then the Museum of Zoology, Agriculture and Folk Crafts of Provincial Zemstvos. Since 1926 – the National Museum of Natural History of Chisinau, since 1937 – the Regional Museum of Bessarabia, since 1940 – the Republican Museum of the MSSR, since 1957 – the State Museum of History and Study of the Motherland, since 1983 – the State Museum of the Study of the Motherland. Since 1991 the museum has received its modern name.
Despite numerous reorganizations throughout its history, the museum has retained two specific areas – the study of the nature and culture of Bessarabia.
At first the museum was in the building of the provincial zemstvo, but in 1903-1905. According to the project of architect V. Tsyganko, a new building for the museum was built. In this building the museum is currently located. Since its inception, the museum has become an important scientific and cultural center of Bessarabia, known not only in the Russian Empire, but also in European countries. Among the people who made a huge contribution to the development of the museum, it should be noted the first administrator of the museum Franz Osterman, the founder of the ethnographic collection – Albina Osterman, naturalists N. Zubovsky, I. Krasilsky, S. Miller, V. Bezval, F. Poruchik and others. Important for the development of the museum was played by the Society of Naturalists of Bessarabia, created in 1904. In 1906, on the territory of the museum, which exists to this day, the first botanical garden in Bessarabia was created.
Being the oldest institution in its field, the museum participated in the creation of most other museums in Moldova. Under the auspices of the museum there is a museum complex in the village of Ivancha, Orhei district, where after the restoration works the Museum of National Crafts of Moldova was opened.
The museum’s collection contains geological, paleontological, zoological, entomological, archaeological, ethnographic and numismatic collections containing many valuable and even unique exhibits, such as the skeleton of the supergiant dynamite (Dinoterium Gigantisimus), archaeological finds from the car park near Karbuna, Larguta, Dorotskaya, Collection of Bessarabian carpets XVIII-XX centuries. And others. Exhibits from the museum’s collection were exhibited at numerous exhibitions in Europe, America, Africa and Asia. The museum’s foundation creates a scientific basis for research in various fields. The museum has a valuable scientific library.
In 1994, a permanent exhibition “Nature, Man, Culture” was opened, dedicated to the relationship between man and nature at different stages of history, the evolution of the organic world, the dynamics of the use of natural resources and ecology.