Meteorites collection

Canyon diablo meteorite

Section through the Canyon Diablo meteorite, showing the distinctive Widmanstätten crystal pattern

The Museum houses one of the world's finest collections of meteorites. The collection contains approximately 2,000 individual meteorites in about 5,000 registered pieces.

We also curate thousands of polished sections of meteorites (used for optical and electron microscopy), tektites and other impact rocks.

We hold a world-class collection of non-Antarctic Martian meteorites. The two largest, Tissint and Nakhla, are on display in the Vault gallery in the Green Zone of the Museum. 

We have also acquired pieces of Ivuna, Tissint, NWA7533 (a unique Martian meteorite) and Agoudal (an iron meteorite from Morocco).

History of the collection

The meteorite collection started when the British Museum acquired three meteorites in 1802, just as people were beginning to accept the idea that meteorites were natural phenomena.

The collection developed in fits and starts. It grew to around 70 specimens under the first Keeper (or Head) of the Department of Natural History, but levelled off when the second Keeper (a palaeontologist) took over.

In 1857, the Department of Mineralogy was separated from Palaeontology, and Nevil Story-Maskelyne (a chemist) became Keeper. Under his enthusiastic guidance the number of meteorites in the collection trebled. By the time the natural history section of the British Museum moved to South Kensington in 1883, the collection had grown to around 250 specimens, including material from Martian meteorites Chassigny and Shergotty.

The collection has continued to grow by purchase, donation and exchange.

Countries of origin

Worldwide coverage including samples from every continent.

Looking for a specific specimen?

The meterorite collection is being digitised

Specimen enquiries

To have your specimen identified

Access the collection

If you would like to use any specimens for scientific research   

Specimens

  • 2,000 individual meteorites in about 5,000 registered pieces

Material types

  • Tektites: 4500
  • Desert Glass:  600
  • Impact rocks: 400
  • Polished sections: 3000
  • Powders and mineral separates: 700

Major collections

  • A portion of the Nininger Collection was acquired in 1959. Nininger was a significant US Collector.
visitor-accessing-collections-hti-single

Accessing the collections

Scientists and collections management specialists can visit the collections and borrow specimens for research.

Collections management

Our duty is to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections.