Specimens

Some of the world's most historic and important plant and insect specimens are stored in the cocoon building and used by scientists.

Cocoa plant collected in the 17th century

17th century cocoa plant

From the cocoa collected by Sir Hans Sloane in Jamaica in the 17th century to malaria-carrying mosquitoes collected in 2008, the cocoon specimen collections are crucial for research into disease, climate change and threats to the Earth’s biodiversity. Scientists use them daily in their research.

Specimens on display

Among the Darwin Centre's specimens on public display, you'll find recently collected beetles from Central American jungles, a half-metre tall crayfish, an Atlas moth with a 16cm wingspan and tiny sandflies on microscope slides.

Glass specimens case

Over 300 specimens in the huge glass cabinet

There is a huge glass cabinet of 326 specimens in the cocoon building. And around 50 giant plants are also on display, as well as historically iconic specimens gathered centuries ago. At various places in the cocoon building and the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, you can pull out collection drawers and see specimens and herbariums volumes. 

About 22 million preserved zoological specimens including the Museum's famous giant squid are stored in the Zoology spirit building, which was part of the original Darwin Centre.
Tour the Darwin Centre's Zoology spirit building

Specimen storage and protection

The Darwin Centre cocoon building has world-class storage to protect our valuable collections.

Over 3.3km of mobile cabinets in the cocoon hold 17 million entomology specimens and 3 million botany specimens.

These irreplaceable collections are vulnerable to damage from light, humidity and pests. The centre has tightly controlled environmental conditions to keep them safe for future generations.

More about the Museum's collections