As the Anniston Museum of Natural History prepares to celebrate its collection’s 90th anniversary in Anniston, Alabama, we look back on the institution’s far-reaching history. Our museum is a result of hundreds of volunteers, donors, and staff creating a world-class experience. A large portion of the museum’s collection was first displayed in 1892 when William H. Werner opened the “Wonderland Museum” on the Boardwalk of Atlantic City, New Jersey. The museum exhibited dioramas of the avians and mammals Werner collected since 1863.
A self-taught taxidermist, Werner created his collection to satiate a deep-rooted admiration for animals and their natural habitats. His work endures in our Birds of the Americas Hall.
Anniston would never have had the opportunity to host such a famed collection had it not been for the philanthropic efforts of H. Severn Regar. Upon Werner’s death in 1912, his beloved collection fell to his son William B. Werner. Regar, an avid admirer of nature, purchased the Werner collection from William in 1913. It was displayed next to Regar’s home in Norristown, Pennsylvania in yet another museum, founded in 1915. Unfortunately, the citizens of Norristown did not share Regar’s adoration of natural history. The citizens’ lack of interest led Regar to consider a new home for his and Werner’s collection. After purchasing two Ptolemaic Era mummies from customs officials in Pennsylvania, Regar moved with his collection to Anniston, Alabama, where it still sits today.