Centre for Arts and Humanities Research

A detail of a 'rose-cut' facetted deep-blue sapphire mounted in a button

A detail of a 'rose-cut' facetted deep-blue sapphire mounted in a button of quartz, inlaid with gold, rubies & emeralds, in the collection of Sir Hans Sloane.

The Centre for Arts and Humanities Research (CAHR) supports and develops research into the historical, cultural, social and economic significance of the Natural History Museum's science, archives and library collections.

Exploring the cultural value of natural history

From Holman Hunt’s portrait of Richard Owen and Japanese translations of Origin of Species to tales of time capsules in the blue whale model and mummified cats, the Museum has a rich archive of information for arts and humanities scholars.

CAHR aims to develop projects that inspire and engage both academics and the general public.

Established in 2008, it is the first centre of its kind in any natural history museum.

Head of centre

Julie Harvey

Scientific coordinator

Dr Charlie Jarvis

Mission and objectives

While previous research at the Museum has focused on our rich history and collections from a cultural perspective, CAHR addresses the intersection between the arts, humanities and sciences.

We manage projects that facilitate interdisciplinary research on the Museum’s specimens and material in its Library and Archives.

By working with our Life and Earth Science Departments as well as researchers in the arts and humanities, we hope to gain a new perspective on the Museum's collections.

Our interdisciplinary partnerships with major universities, research institutes and museums around the world include work on:

  • large-scale projects
  • exhibitions
  • conferences
  • workshops
  • seminars
  • digital learning aids
  • fellowships
  • archive development.

We aim to develop activities that are cross-institutional, accessible to the public and directly respond to contemporary, worldwide concerns.


Please browse some examples of our projects past and present.

Museum lives

Creating an oral history revealing life behind the scenes at the Museum by recording stories from Museum staff

Wallich and Indian Natural History

A project to reunite the dispersed specimens, correspondence and illustrations of botanist Nathaniel Wallich

Reconstructing Sloane

Research programme to reconnect parts of Sir Hans Sloane’s collections, distributed across the Natural History Museum, the British Museum and the British Library