Historical collections

The Natural History Museum’s Entomology department boasts a collection of over 30 million specimens but Banks collection and the Sloane collection are the only two officially designated as historic by the trustees of the Museum.

These unique collections are approximately three hundred years old and are key to telling the history of collecting, the science of taxonomy and the human desire to understand the natural world.

The collections have particular taxonomic significance because:

  • Linnaeus refers to the Sloane collection in his Systeme Naturae
  • the Banks collection contains many types described by J. Fabricius
  • Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753)
    Sloane collection

    The Sloane collection contains the extant insect specimens collected and purchased by Sir Hans Sloane and was the foundation of the British Museum and the subsequent establishment of the Natural History Museum.

  • Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820)
    Banks collection

    Find out about the importance of the Banks collection, which consists of dried pinned specimens collected by Banks during Captain Cook’s circumnavigation of the globe.

Glossary

Carl Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus was a Swedish physician and botanist and is known as the father of modern taxonomy for his methods of classifying species.

Johan Fabricius
Johan Fabricius was a Danish entomologist. He was a student of Carl Linnaeus and has named nearly 10,000 species of insect. His method of classifying insects into ‘classes’ was revolutionary and still remains today.