The Natural History Museum at Harwell

A new centre for science and digitisation

A micro-CT scan of a chrysanthemum against a black background

A micro-CT scan of a chrysanthemum © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

A planetary emergency demands an unprecedented response. Our new science and digitisation centre at Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire will be a gateway to the natural world, widening access to vital information to deliver innovative solutions to global challenges.

With over 80 million objects spanning planetary to microscopic scales, billions of years to fractions of a second, genes to ecosystems and microminerals to mountain ranges, the Museum's collection is a powerful scientific tool.

It drives our understanding of the planet, how it looked in the past and how it is changing, and provides a window into evidence-based solutions for our future. We want to protect and continue to expand and improve access to this vast data resource for scientists and researchers all over the world. 

By 2026 we will move over 27 million specimens and over 600m3 of accompanying Library material to a groundbreaking new centre for the study of natural history at Harwell Campus. We will work with partners to harness novel technologies and analysis techniques to gain new insights into the natural world and supercharge digitisation of the collections.

Which collections will be at Harwell? 

The centre will bring together and secure Museum collections vital to our understanding of environmental change and ecosystem health, and co-locate them with innovative digitisation, molecular and analytical technologies and facilities. Collections housed at Harwell will include: 

Access to the collections will be affected as we prepare for the move, however we will do our best to accommodate both visitor and loan requests where possible, and particularly over the next two years. Please contact curators as early as possible to allow for this planning.  

You can sign up to the mailing list above to receive the latest updates on collections closures as they become available. We will also be accelerating digitisation of the collections which you can explore on the Data Portal

This is a long-term project to secure the future of the collections

2021-2025

The collections are prepared for the move to Harwell. We will also develop our partnership and research programme.

2025-2026

The collections move to Harwell Campus.

2026

The new centre opens.

New solutions for nature

Each year Museum scientists and more than 5,000 visiting researchers from across the globe use the collection to study the natural world and to inform action to protect it. 

Our new centre will open up the collections, and the data contained within them, to even more researchers and partners to promote scientific innovation. It will provide a place to discover and access information to tackle global challenges such as climate change, resource scarcity, biodiversity loss and emerging diseases. 

We will work closely and collaboratively with research institutes, universities, museums and industry to use the solutions from nature to deliver solutions for nature. 

The energy- and space-efficient building will house laboratories, digitisation suites, collaborative research spaces, computing labs, conservation labs and workspaces, as well as leading-edge collections storage facilities. 

Increasing access to digital data

Demand for digital data from the Museum's collections is significant and rising. Digitisation is transforming how the collections are accessed and is revealing new information. Over 4.8 million specimens have already been digitised and made openly accessible through the Museum's Data Portal, resulting in 27 billion records downloaded over 400k download events and over 1000 scientific papers citing the digital collection, enabling new questions to be answered and deeper insights to be made.  

The new centre will accelerate our Digital Collections Programme, widening the door for the global scientific community to unrivalled historical, geographic and taxonomic specimen data. 

Building on partnerships

Tackling the planetary emergency is not a solo project - it requires global collaboration. Our science is outward-facing and responsive, working across disciplines and delivering impact in areas of public and industrial need.  

Establishing a new location at Harwell Campus will place the Museum's collections and research inside a broader, world-leading community of scientific talent and national laboratories. 

We will use this as an opportunity to build on existing partnerships and develop new ones to maximise the impact of collections-based research.  

Contact us

Whether you're interested in developing shared bids, delivering on grants, joining training partnerships or seeking scientific consultancy, we're keen to discuss opportunities for collaboration. 

Harwell blog

We go behind the scenes with some of the people involved with the Museum’s largest move since it opened at South Kensington in 1881.

How the collections support research