About the collection

Every modern continent is represented in the Museum's rock collection. Over the past 250 years we have acquired samples from many historic expeditions, developing a collection to advance our understanding of the evolution of Earth.

Early collections originate from the desire to explore and understand foreign lands. Discoveries made by scientists and naturalists on these voyages formed a picture of the huge geological forces that shape our planet. 

Modern collections reflect a change in research and exploration. Rather than surveying huge areas of land, modern studies focus on understanding geological processes that occur at single sites or a series of geologically related localities, such as:

  • volcanoes
  • volcanic islands
  • igneous intrusions
  • mountain belts
Notable collections
  • Igneous rocks, particularly alkaline rocks and carbonatites, and kimberlites.
  • Specimens from remote oceanic islands.
  • Historic collections from major expeditions, particularly to Antarctica, Africa and Australia.
Scientifically important acquisitions
  • Xenoliths from kimberlites donated by Prof Peter Nixon in 1994.
  • Carbonatites and natro-carbonatites from eruptions of Ol Doinyo Lengai, Tanzania, donated by Prof Barry Dawson in 2003.
  • Xenoliths from Pali-Aike, Chile, from Dr Pamela Kempton.
  • Alkaline igneous and carbonatite rocks collected by Dr Mike LeBas from various sites in Africa, America and Europe.
  • A suite of volcanic rocks from the major eruptions of Popcatépetl, Mexico.
Collections manager
David Smith, Curator.
Mr David Smith

Petrology curator in the Earth Sciences department.

Contact information

David Smith 
Collections manager 
The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road

Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5163