Preserving Sloane's Herbaria

During his lifetime Sir Hans Sloane was concerned about the preservation of his collections. Over the years since his death they have had mixed fortunes, with many mammal, bird and reptile specimens being lost and destroyed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Sloane Herbarium volume

Contemporary drawings to accompany some of Sir Hans Sloane's herbarium specimens.

His plant collections survived and are still housed in the Museum today. Until recently however they were at risk from light, atmospheric pollution, fire, theft and changes in temperature and humidity that can damage delicate materials such as these.

In 1998, the Museum set up a programme to rehouse and conserve these important collections. In 1999, with a generous donation from the Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, Sloane's collections were moved into a purpose-built Special Collections Room.

Here, each volume is housed horizontally in cabinets with sliding shelves. The air is filtered and maintained at appropriate conditions of temperature and humidity. The room is designed to provide an appropriate and fitting ambiance for scientists and historians to study the 265 volumes of this botanical treasure.


An ongoing programme has been set up to repair and restore Sloane's and other collections. Severely decayed bindings are being repaired or replaced, specimens consolidated and paper repaired. As Sloane would have wished, we hope to make these priceless collections available for another 300 years at least!