Our collections

With more than 70 million specimens, ranging from microscopic slides to mammoth skeletons, the Museum is home to the largest and most important natural history collection in the world.

It all started with Sir Hans Sloane, an 18th century collector, whose collection of 80,000 items was bought by the nation. Over the years, voyages of discovery, such as Cook's epic journey aboard the HMS Endeavour, have boosted our collections. Many benefactors have also made contributions.

The scope of our specimens is simply vast. They include material from the ill-fated dodo, meteorites from Mars and a full-size blue whale skeleton. They cover almost all groups of animals, plants, minerals and fossils, and range in size from cells on slides to whole animals preserved in alcohol.

In total, there are:

  • 55 million animals, including 28 million insects
  • 9 million fossils
  • 6 million plant specimens
  • more than 500,000 rocks and minerals
  • 3,200 meteorites in our collections
  • 17 million insect and 3 million plant specimens are now looked after in the Darwin Centre and Cocoon

Find out about the Darwin Centre plant and insect collections

The Natural History Museum at Tring houses the bird collection representing about 95 per cent of known bird species. Find out more.

We also have the world's finest natural history library, with the largest collection of natural history library materials in the world including books, periodicals, original drawings, paintings and prints, manuscripts and maps.