Discover the history and science of each object in the Treasures collection. Learn what each tells us about our world and the remarkable people who have helped explore and understand it.
These insects are from Alfred Russel Wallace’s personal collection. He co-discovered the theory of evolution by natural selection with Charles Darwin. He kept very few of the specimens he collected.
Archaeopteryx is the earliest known bird and this is the first one ever found. It is the most valuable fossil in the Museum’s collection. This is the type specimen of the species, the one to which all others are compared.
This lion was the jewel of the King’s zoo in the Tower of London 700 years ago. It is also the oldest lion found in the UK after the extinction of native wild lions.
The one-metre tall The Birds of America by John James Audubon is the world’s most expensive book. There are only around 120 complete four-volume copies in the world.
These delicate glass artworks of sea creatures were made with impeccable accuracy using techniques no one has been able to replicate.
This was the first revealing human fossil ever found in Africa. It is the most likely ancestor to modern humans Homo sapiens and is still the finest known example of its kind.
Charles Darwin owned these everyday pigeons, and they provided crucial evidence for his theory that changed the world: evolution by natural selection.
The dodo is one of the first widely acknowledged cases of human-caused extinction. Its fame was secured by Lewis Carroll in his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
This fossil tooth and jaw bone was one of the first pieces of evidence that miniature elephants once lived on Cyprus. It was discovered by intrepid collector Dorothea Bate, the first female scientist employed at the Natural History Museum.
It is one of only three fresh eggs collected by Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to Antarctica. It was hoped that the embryo inside would confirm a link between reptiles and birds.
These pressed plants helped lead the great Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus to establish a revolutionary new way of classifying the world. We are displaying just one page, which we will change regularly to prevent fading.
The great auk is one of the most powerful symbols of the damage humans can cause. The species became extinct not through habitat loss but centuries of intense exploitation.
London Zoo’s best-loved resident, Guy, a western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), remains as majestic and iconic as he was in his time.
Beautifully carved, it is easy to imagine this shell was one of Sir Hans Sloane’s favourite specimens. His huge collection forms the core of the British and Natural History Museums.
Found by Mary Mantell in 1822 in loose fragments of rock in Sussex, her amateur palaeontologist husband Gideon noticed they were similar to modern iguana teeth, but 10 times larger. It sparked the discovery of dinosaurs.
This plant was collected by the young scientist Joseph Banks on Endeavour, Captain Cook’s first voyage to Australia in 1770. The incredible numbers of species they discovered fuelled Banks’ ambition to revolutionise global trade and scientific exploration.
Richard Owen, first superintendent of this Museum, used his great anatomical knowledge to deduce that this fragment of bone belonged to a giant flightless bird.
Given as a gesture of goodwill by President Nixon following the last manned Apollo Moon mission, this is the only piece of Apollo Moon rock owned by the UK.
A rare first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, the most important book in biology, in which he describes his theory of evolution by natural selection.
Richard Owen was the man who created the Natural History Museum. This portrait is by William Holman Hunt, one of the most significant artists of his time and founding member of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Look up at the ceiling and see the Museum’s first permanent art installation, celebrating 200 years since Charles Darwin’s birth.
The father of geology, William Smith, used these fossils to prove that the rocks beneath our feet are layered through time.
It is the earliest surviving meteorite seen to land in the UK and helped confirm that meteorites fall from space. It formed during the birth of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
Which is your favourite in the Treasures collection? Let us know by voting in our poll.
Take home the Museum's most precious specimens and exhibits in the Treasures book, packed with intriguing stories and sumptuous images.
On the first of each month our free Treasures talks with Museum scientists feature different objects in the new Treasures Cadogan Gallery.