Composition and history

Our vast collection of over half a million works covers a range of media, styles, subject matter and geographical regions.

The Museum art collections are particularly rich in material from the 18th and 19th centuries. 

They include works from botanical and zoological artists who made significant contributions to our understanding of the natural world, and notable collectors such as Sir Hans Sloane and Sir Joseph Banks.

Our art collection was built largely through presentations, bequests, legacies and purchasing, and the Library continues to acquire relevant works to this day.

Artists represented in the picture Library include:

Phyllotactic diagram of sunflower bud

Phyllotactic diagram of sunflower bud. Drawn using a camera lucida. Ink and wash drawing by Arthur Harry Church, 1901.


The collections include sketches, scientific line drawings, anatomical, zoological and botanical art, as well as portraits and photographs. A range of techniques and media are represented: 

  • Ink
  • Graphite
  • Watercolours
  • Oils
  • Free-hand
  • Etching
  • Engraving
  • Lithography
Lodran meteorite microscope image
Picture Library

Search over 50,000 images online.