Among its more than 350 separate exhibits, the museum is famous for its Panorama of North American Wildlife, part of which represented Kansas in the 1893 World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago, and was the impetus for the funding and construction of Dyche Hall and its Natural History Museum between 1901-1903. Modeled after a church in France, Dyche Hall was designed to house the Panorama in the "apse" of the entrance gallery. The museum is also renowned for Comanche (horse), the only survivor on the U.S. Cavalry side of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, for its extensive exhibits of plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, pterosaurs and other fossils from the Kansas Chalk, and most recently for its newest displays of mammalian skulls, the parasites of sharks and rays, and the pre-Colombian archaeology of Costa Rica.
The Biodiversity Institute, with more than 10 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, and archaeological artifacts, is one of the world's leaders in collection-based studies of systematics, evolution, phylogenetics, paleobiology, past cultures, biodiversity modeling, and in providing digital access to collection-based biodiversity data biodiversity informatics, including deploying these data for forecasting environmental phenomena. The Institute's collections, faculty-curators, staff and students are housed in six buildings across the KU campus, with the most recent expansion occurring in 2006–2007, when the Division of Entomology, along with parts of the ornithological and mammal collection, were moved to a new facility on the university's West Campus.