Annual reviews

The year to April 2021 was extraordinary for the Museum. The galleries were open for just 86 days. Amid the global pandemic, our buildings saw their longest period of closure since the Second World War.

Despite that, Museum staff made great strides towards our strategic goals. Our digital audience has grown, our researchers have made valuable contributions to scientific research, and teams have secured new funding to safeguard our collections far into the future.

Read the Museum's 2021 review (PDF).

Highlights include:

  • Fantastic Beasts™: The Wonder of Nature was created in partnership with Warner Bros. and the BBC Studios Natural History Unit.
  • We launched our commitment to tackle climate change by pledging to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2035.
  • Professor Yadvinder Malhi and Harris Bokhari joined the Board of Trustees.
  • We were delighted to welcome Dr Doug Gurr as the Museum's new Director.
  • The Digital Collections Programme imaged 30,000 specimens, transcribed data from 143,000, and georeferenced 17,000. In May 2020 alone almost 380 million records were downloaded from our Data Portal.
  • A new science and digitisation centre will help to secure the collection for future study. Following the UK Government's pledge in March 2020 of £182 million, work is underway on a sustainable, flagship centre at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire.
  • More than 500 new species were documented by our scientists from almost all kingdoms of life, ranging from lichen, wasps and barnacles to minerals, miniature tarantulas and a monkey.
  • A Mars meteorite from the Museum collection was returned there as part of the ground-breaking NASA Mars 2020 rover mission. Travelling 100 million kilometres from South Kensington, it will be used as a test sample for the onboard high-precision laser.
  • As part of the Urban Nature Project, the Museum ran 25 tests and trials to discover ways of delivering nature-based engagement activities to audiences with a low connection to nature, and established a UK network of 10 partners to deliver a UK-wide national schools learning programme to reach 16,000 students and 1,500 teachers.
  • People and Planet: A Global Alliance launched, a collection of 40 science-in-culture organisations to share best practice, learn from one another and develop projects together.
  • In October 2020, our Royal Patron, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, announced the winning image for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards in a special video filmed at the Museum.
  • We kept close to our audiences through the pandemic with a busy digital offer, and it has been the most successful digital year in our history. We innovated with a range of activities to try at home, provided donation opportunities across the site, aired live events with scientists and, with support from Google Arts & Culture, took visitors on a virtual tour of the Museum.