The basis for the newly-established museum was the first collections donated by the museum founders. In the museum of the Rīga Nature Researchers Society, the most complete collections of Baltic animals, plants and minerals were accumulated and researched in addition to a varied material from abroad. Moreover, the Himmsel Museum (one of Europe's first public museums), which was donated to the Rīga City Council by the Himmsels, a family of doctors and pharmacists, already operated in Rīga since 1773.
In 1972, the Nature Museum of the Latvian SSR took part in the foundation of the USSR section of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and the museum director worked in the section office. In 1981 the museum launched the publication of a collection of articles "Nature and Museum". With the opening of a nature conservation unit and an exposition in 1976, the museum started a new direction in its work, which has grown into diverse environmental education efforts.
The museum keeps a number of various natural history collections containing 183 000 specimens related to the nature of Latvia and of other regions in the world. Since 1999, the museum operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment. The museum structure includes 6 exposition units, a collections unit, exhibitions and information unit, a taxidermy lab, a library and a photography lab.
In 2001 the museum installed a local computer network with 32 workstations. In order to carry out a vast educational programme, the museum puts together new collections on nature in Latvia and in the world and supplements the existing ones; it also works to raise awareness of the need to protect nature and use its wealth in a sensible manner.