Meteorite collection

The Natural History Museum in London houses one of the world's finest collections of meteorites, about 2,000 individual meteorites in about 5,000 registered pieces. 

We hold the finest collection of all major national museums of non-Antarctic martian meteorites. The largest, a piece of Nakhla, is on permanent display in the atrium of the Earth Galleries, quite rightly featuring as one of the highlights of the Museum's treasures.

The most recent additions have been material relating to the Euromet Antarctic meteorite collection.

The collection has grown from small beginnings: the first three meteorites were acquired by the British Museum in 1802, just as the general acceptance that meteorites were natural phenomena was gaining ground. 

The collection grew in fits and starts, growing to a total of about 70 specimens under the first Keeper (or Head) of the Department of Natural History, but then levelling off when the second Keeper (a palaeontologist) took office.

 In 1857, the Department of Mineralogy was separated from Palaeontology, and Nevil Story-Maskelyne (a chemist) was appointed Keeper. Under his enthusiastic guidance, the number of meteorites in the collection trebled, and by the time the Natural History Section of the British Museum moved to its current site at South Kensington (in 1883), the collection had grown to around 250 specimens, including material from Chassigny and Shergotty, two of the group of meteorites now known to be from Mars.

Through reorganisations and removals, wars and Whitehall whims, the collection has continued to grow, by purchase, donation and exchange. .