|The Natural History Museum Annual Review 2003 | 2004|
|Introduction||The Director's Review||Our Year||World Class Science|
|Opening Up the Collection||Darwin Centre Innovation||3 Million+ Visitors||A Place for Learning|
|Working for Us||Looking Ahead||Our Supporters||Financial Review|
|Corporate Governance||Previous Years' Reports|
|(Annual Report Home - graphics and PDF)|
|Opening Up the Collection|
|The collection is a model of the natural world and a major research infrastructure in its own right. We are making it more widely accessible, by opening our doors to visiting researchers, by putting more and more data on to our website, and by creating the Darwin Centre - our inspirational resource for the study of the natural world.|
|A National Treasure||Wider Access||Online Information|
A national treasure. The Museum's 70 million specimens constitute one of the world's great natural history and mineralogy collections. It is a global resource, looked after by a team of around 100 expert curators who make their knowledge widely available to partner institutions, commercial companies and members of the public. In addition, the Museum's library has a collection of one million books, original works of art and many thousands of journals that are essential to the work of the Museum's scientists and many visitors.
The care of the collections is always our first priority - much of the material is fragile and vulnerable to decay and pest attacks. As part of the SYNTHESYS project, we are leading an international effort to establish a common framework of collection standards that will protect the world's major collections so that future generations can learn from them.
Our identification service is always much in demand, and during 2003/04 we dealt with 58,665 enquiries.
Wider access. Our collections have never been more open to access, not only to visiting scientists but also to the many members of the public who are fascinated by our collections and want to experience them at first hand. More visitors than ever before went 'behind-the-scenes' to see the collections, by joining the guided tours of the zoology collections at the Darwin Centre or participating in the special visits that we arrange for Museum supporters and their families. The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum at Tring has also opened up its collections to wider public view through the successful programme of Private View tours.
We continued to make material from our collections available to museums and scientific institutions across the UK and worldwide - we made 1,911 specimens loans in 2003/04, involving 98,892 specimens.
We contributed to the Government's Working Group on Human Remains and strongly support the leading recommendation of its November 2003 report, which called for changes to the law to allow the return of human remains to claimant communities. The Museum will be working with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, other museums and interest groups to develop common standards and practices for all UK institutions which have human remains in their collections, as well as putting forward positive proposals for independent advice on individual claims. Our aim is to bring about a balanced ethical framework that recognises the immense scientific, medical and public value of such remains, alongside the interests of those arguing for their repatriation.
Online information. The important work of digitising and web databasing the collections gathered pace during the year. This is a massive project, involving many of our researchers, curatorial staff and volunteers. There are now some 21,000 pages of collections information online, making us one of the world's largest providers of systematics information.
Our micro-palaeontologists launched online databases of fossil dinoflagellate cysts and conodonts, while our botanists collaborated with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew to create an online database of specimens from the Amazon and Andes collected by Richard Spruce in the nineteenth century.
Our art collections team continued to bring natural history works of art to a global audience. Web visitors can now access a range of 'online exhibitions' at www.nhm.ac.uk/library/art, arranged in such themes as Natural Wonders: Images from the Indian Subcontinent, One Hundred Years of Nature: Artwork from the Twentieth Century, and Drawing Conclusions: The Impact of Art on Natural History - the latter launched to coincide with our Big Draw event in October 2003. A new Collection Development Team has been created, led by Chris Mills, to ensure that we make the most of our art and other Library treasures.
Our Library and Information Services department is working with partners in the UK, Sweden, Denmark and the USA to create an online catalogue of material relating to Carl Linnaeus, the great eighteenth century naturalist and founder of the species nomenclature used by scientists today. The project is funded by the Linnean Society of London.
Clare Valentine - Head of Collections, Zoology.
'Our collections are amongst the world's finest, which is why it's so important that they have the best possible care. The specimens we look after come from every continent and go back to the eighteenth century. They are a treasurehouse of scientific information. For example, we have specimens from the same animal populations going back two centuries or more, giving researchers a unique opportunity to investigate how the environment has changed over time.'