Natural History Museum science and digitisation centre

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

A planetary emergency demands an unprecedented response. We’re securing the future of the collections and embarking on a new era of exploration and discovery to unlock crucial data and deliver innovative solutions for nature.

With over 80 million objects spanning billions of years and representing planetary to microscopic scales, the collections at the Museum are a powerful scientific tool. For people and planet to thrive, we must harness this power.

The Museum’s new science and digitisation centre will be a gateway to the natural world, dedicated to widening access to vital scientific information and developing novel analytical technologies to understand changing natural diversity.

The centre will be based at Thames Valley Science Park in Shinfield, Wokingham. The Science Park is owned and run by the University of Reading, and the Museum are delighted to be entering into a partnership with another organisation that has environmental research and education at the core of its mission.

The 28 million specimens due to be housed at the centre will sit alongside innovative digital, analytical and genomic technologies and facilities.

The centre will enable Museum scientists, visiting researchers, partners and collaborators around the world to address urgent questions and develop new solutions to global challenges; from tracking genetic responses to climate change, to the emergence and spread of infectious diseases.

The acceleration of digitisation will enable global access to the collections, transforming research capability and impact.

Which collections are moving? 

Collections that will be at the science centre include: 

In addition to new collections storage facilities, the energy efficient building will house laboratories, digitisation suites, collaborative research spaces, computing labs, conservation labs and workspaces. These will be available for Museum scientists and visiting researchers.

Changes to collections access

As we prepare for this move, access to staff and collections across all sites will be affected. Requests for visits and loans will be assessed on a case-by-case basis so please plan ahead and contact the relevant department to discuss your needs as early as possible.

To receive the latest updates on collections closures as they become available, sign up to the mailing list above. You can also explore over five million digital specimen collections through the online Data Portal, as well as the Museum’s Library & Archives collections.

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

    

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. 

2021-2025

The collections are prepared for the move, and we develop our partnership and research programme.

2025-2026

Construction is complete. Collections and people start to move into the centre.

2026

The new centre is operational.

Collaborative solutions for nature

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.

We have chosen to position this new centre at the heart of one of the leading hubs of technology and innovation in the UK, with close links to the University of Reading, to build on existing partnerships and develop new ones to maximise the impact of collections-based research.

Each year Museum scientists and more than 8,000 visiting researchers from across the globe use the Museum collections to study the natural world and inform action to protect it. Through the centre we will open up the collections, and the data contained within them, to even more researchers and partners than ever before to drive forward scientific innovation.

Whether you're interested in developing shared bids, delivering on grants, training partnerships, or something else, we're keen to discuss opportunities for collaboration, email us at growingscience@nhm.ac.uk

Harnessing 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 five million specimens have already been digitised and made openly accessible through the Museum's Data Portal, enabling new questions to be answered and deeper insights to be made.

Recent research has indicated that digitisation of the entire Museum collection could benefit advancements in food security, biodiversity conservation, medicine discovery and minerals exploration, with estimated economic value of more than £2bn.

The new centre will enable an acceleration and enhancement in digitisation, widening the door for the global scientific community to unrivalled historical, geographic and taxonomic specimen data.

Explore the collections

Look through 80 million objects form the world's most important natural history collection.

Visit the Data Portal

Explore and download the Museum's research and collections data.

Read the blog

Go behind the scenes of the Museum’s largest move since it opened at South Kensington in 1881.

Discover how the collections support research