Science in the Darwin Centre

The Darwin Centre houses millions of insect and plant specimens.

More about the Darwin Centre's cocoon specimens


Of the 70 million specimens in the Natural History Museum, 17 million insect and 3 million plant specimens are looked after in the Darwin Centre and its cocoon building. They are vital to our research in areas like fighting malaria and climate change.

Hundreds of science staff and science visitors from around the world use the cocoon facilities and collections for research and analysis. From fieldwork to laboratory work in the Darwin Centre workspaces, our scientists push forward the boundaries of knowledge and scientific progress.

Scientists in action

Museum scientist preparing specimens

A scientist prepares specimens

On the Cocoon journey, visitors encounter scientists at work in open-plan workspaces using high-tech equipment. Learn how they name new species and prepare specimens used in research.

  • Decoding DNA - look into state-of-the art laboratories where scientists extract, process, sequence and analyse the DNA of plants and insects.
  • Preparing specimens – a microphone in the dedicated Specimen Preparation Area (SPA) lets you talk directly to scientists about their day's work like pressing plants collected from the streets of London or sorting through beetles fresh from tropical jungles.
  • Beetle on a pin
  • Looking closer – witness scientific staff in the Sackler Biodiversity Imaging Laboratory working with herbscan machines to create high quality images of dried plants. Get up close to beautiful microscopic plants and animals through interactive installations.

The science of nature

Scientist using equipment

The Liquid-handling Robotic Instrument assists DNA experimentation

The Darwin Centre expands the Museum’s role as a world leader in science research and communication.

As many as 90% of the world’s species are yet to be named and classified. Naming, identifying and investigating the relationships of organisms are key to our understanding of the natural world and a major area of our scientists' research.
Find out more about our scientific research

Download the Science review 2009 PDF (2.0 MB)

Learning about science

In the state-of-the-art Darwin Centre there are many exciting learning activities and events for schools. Both schools and the public have the chance to interact with real scientists working on specimens and researching data.
Find out about our science learning activities

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Supported by
  • The Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation
  • The Alborada Trust