Collections and topics

The Museum Archives hold over 4 million items, from letters and expedition diaries to news cuttings and specimen accession registers.

The Museum Archives are public records, accessible once they are thirty years old.

Many records have been passed down from Museum departments or staff, although some scientific departments still hold their own records.

We do not hold specimens, but we may have correspondence from donors or a record of when an item was entered into the collection. The Library holds some manuscript material relating to individuals connected with the Museum.

Types of material

  • Correspondence and research notes created by Museum scientists or sent to them from colleagues, collectors, researchers and the public worldwide
  • Accession registers containing details of specimens we have received
  • Reports and projects files
Reports and minutes from the Zoological Department.

Departmental documents from the Museum Archives.

  • Minutes of Trustee and other high-level meetings
  • Personnel, Estates and Finance records
  • Photos, posters, flyers, news cuttings, guidebooks
  • Files on the development of exhibitions, galleries, publications and events
  • Architectural plans
  • Letters received by the private museum owned by Walter Rothschild at Tring, now part of the Natural History Museum
  • Expedition correspondence and reports
  • Oral histories and reminiscences

Topics that can be researched in the Museum Archives include:

  • architectural history of the building
  • acquisitions, collections and collectors
  • development of other natural history collections and museums around the world
  • the life and work of former members of staff
  • Museum exhibitions and museology
  • the Museum's role in conservation
  • public perception of the Museum
  • development of visitor and education services
  • the Museum in wartime.
Museum telephonist, 1933.
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Chimpanzee skeleton, 1907.
Museum Archives catalogue

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