Brachiopod collection (Brachiopoda)

Brachiopod hard parts have excellent preservation potential. As a result, a large collection exists at the Natural History Museum which is estimated to contain over 300,000 specimens, including 10,000 type and figured specimens.

Uniquely, this Palaeontology Department collection includes the Museum’s Recent (non-fossil) collection of dry and preserved specimens, in addition to fossil material.

The value of the collection is enhanced by a specialist library.


Geological range:

The full geological range of each subphylum of brachiopod is represented in our collection:

  • Craniiformea (Lower Cambrian to Recent)
  • Linguliformea (Lower Cambrian to Recent)
  • Rhynchonelliformea (Lower Cambrian to Recent)
Geographical range:

The collection is representative of all continents, including Antarctica and oceanic islands.

  • Historic collections containing brachiopods

    The Museum cares for many important collections linked to major characters in the history of palaeontology. Find out about key historic collections containing brachiopod specimens.

  • Research visitor facilities

    Discover what facilities are available in the Palaeontology Department for research visitors to the brachiopod collection.

Collections management and curation


The fossil brachiopod collection is primarily arranged

  1. stratigraphically
  2. taxonomically
  3. with further subdivisions based upon locality

The systematic arrangement follows the Treatise on Invertebrate Palaeontology.

There are separate historic and Recent collections. The non-fossil specimens are arranged systematically.


Fossil material is kept in drawer units:

  • Specimens are generally boxed.
  • Some older specimens are adhered to cards.

Non-fossil specimens are housed in steel cupboards:

  • Dry material is boxed or in jars.
  • Wet specimens are preserved in alcohol.

Each drawer has a label which identifies the content to familial, generic and often specific level.

Most the collection is well provenanced:

  • Original labels are often retained with the specimens.
  • For historic content the associated person is identified.

Type specimens are indicated by pink spots, figured by green.


The brachiopod collection is based across 3 locations in London:

  • Most is housed in the Palaeontology Department at South Kensington.
  • Some specimens, principally ex-display, are in expansion storage at Wandsworth.
  • Some specimens are on display at the Natural History Museum in the Earth Lab and in the Fossils from Britain gallery.