Diatom collections

The diatom collections at the Natural History Museum contain over 300,000 specimens that have been added from the early 19th century to the present day.

The collections include freshwater, brackish and marine representatives and are extremely geographically and taxonomically diverse, with all major diatom groups - both fossil and recent - represented.

As well as being historically significant, the collections are a modern research resource, with specimens relevant to scientific problems as diverse as climate change and the determination of phylogenetic relationships.

The collections also have a comprehensive assortment of fossil specimens, including one of the best representations of Cretaceous diatoms.

  • Amphitetras diatom
    Historic collections

    Find out about the Museum’s historic diatom collections. Many of the specimens from the early 19th century are type material.

  • Photograph of a diatom specimen found off the coast of Hong Kong
    Major international collections

    The Museum’s diatom herbarium is actively growing. Collections from Jamaica, the Philippines and Lake Baikal in Siberia have recently been added to the important 20th century collections from abroad.

  • Scanning electron microscope image of a fossil marine diatom showing the ornate silica shell
    British collections

    Learn more about the Museum’s significant diatom collections from Britain. They include the most comprehensive British collections made during the 20th century.

  • Scanning electron microscope image of a diatom showing the ornate silica shell
    Published sets

    There are also many important exsiccatae sets (published sets of specimen material) within the Museum’s collections, both modern and from the 19th century.

  • Scanning electron microscope image of a fossil marine diatom showing the ornate silica shell
    Collections management and curation

    Find out how our scientists curate and manage the 300,000-plus diatom specimens.

  • Scanning electron microscope image of a fossil marine diatom
    Access to the collections

    Find out how to arrange a visit and borrow diatom specimens, including who to contact.