First Darwin Centre specimens unpacked

02 April 2009

The first of the 20 million Natural History Museum specimens are being unpacked in their new home at the Darwin Centre this week.

Big-cone pine, one of the millions of specimens in the Museum botany collection

Big-cone pine, one of the 3 million botany specimens moving into the new Darwin Centre

17 million entomology and 3 million botany specimens will be placed into 3.3km of collection cabinets in the new state-of-the-art building. 

They are used by thousands of researchers around the world each year for scientific study and some will be on display to the public when the building opens in the autumn this year.

Special specimens

There are many valuable and historic specimens at the Museum, such as the cocoa plant collected by Sir Hans Sloane in Jamaica in the 17th century and malaria-carrying mosquitoes collected in 2008.

Science work
A common milkweed locust specimen

A common milkweed locust specimen

More than 200 scientists will work in the building with new high-tech facilities and laboratories. 

They'll continue important research into subjects such as disease, environmental change, and threats to biodiversity. 

There will also be UK-focused research in the new Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity.

Artist's impression of the atrium showing the cocoon inside the glass Darwin Centre building

Artist's impression of the atrium showing the cocoon inside the glass Darwin Centre building

Scientists will be kept busy naming, identifying and investigating relationships between organisms as an amazing 90% of the world's species are yet to be named and classified.

Landmark building

The 8-storey-high cocoon is part of the second phase of the Natural History Museum's landmark Darwin Centre.

It will show the public more of the vital research Museum scientists carry out and how the internationally important collections are looked after. 

Freezing treatment

Each of the 3 million plant specimens will be frozen for 5 days in giant 40-tonne freezers to kill any pests that feed on them.

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Further information

  • FInd out more about the Darwin Centre
  • Discover more about the science at the Darwin Centre