The collections rank among the major collections from the Pacific region, with New Guinea and Solomon Islands holdings being particularly impressive. The collection of reptiles and amphibians from Papua New Guinea is the most diverse and one of the largest collections in the world. It also contains the best documented photographic and sound recordings taken in the field. More than ninety designated amphibian and reptile holotypes are contained in the collection, along with over fifty designated bird and mammal holotypes. (A holotype is a single specimen upon which the description and name of a new species is based.)
Bishop Museum is the only permitted repository for endangered and threatened Hawaiian species for all permits issued by the state of Hawaiʻi, making the collection a favored repository for additional endemic Hawaiian species in recent years. The Museum is unique in having recent material that can be compared with century-old material.
The Museum is also home to the largest collection of extinct Hawaiian vertebrate species in the state, the only collection of Hawaiian subfossil bird fauna in the state (one of only two in the world), and unique in the world in having representatives of most of the bird species known to have occurred in the Hawaiian island chain since first Western contact in 1778.
Other notable features of the Museum include its status as the only institution with a large nineteenth-century collection that has steadily received native as well as alien species throughout the twentieth century, providing a unique historical resource. Many specimens significantly pre-date the major Hawaiian collections obtained for European museums in the 1890s, and thus remain exceptionally important for scientific research. They include several species that became extinct before 1890.