Historical (pre-Linnean) botanical collections

The Historical Collections Room houses some of the Museum's most historic items, including botanical specimens collected over 400 years ago.

The Museum's algae, fungi and plant collections span several centuries, covering a period of unprecedented exploration and investigation into natural history.

The Historical Collections Room, a high security, climate-controlled special collections area, houses botanical collections made before the mid-18th century. Collections from the late 18th century onwards, including those of Joseph Banks, are in our general collections and enquiries regarding those should be directed to the appropriate sectional curator.

The Historical Collections room houses the herbarium of Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), comprising 265 volumes and an estimated 120,000 plan specimens collected from over 70 countries and dependencies worldwide. An account of the collection is provided by Dandy (1958), available from the Biodiversity Heritage Library. It also includes Sloane’s collection of vegetable substances.

Other major collections include the herbaria of Paul Hermann (1646-1695), John Clayton (1694/5-1773), George Clifford (1685-1760), Samuel Dale (1659-1739) and John Ray (1627-1705).


Major collections

Looking for a specimen?

The historical collections are available in the Data Portal


Dr Mark Carine

Any questions?

If you would like to use any specimens for research, please get in touch

Accessing the collections

Scientists and collections management specialists can visit the collections and borrow specimens for research.

Collections management

Our duty is to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections.

Collections on the move

We have set out on an ambitious programme to develop a new science and digitisation centre. As we prepare for the move, access to some collections will be affected. 

Find out more and sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on changes to collections access, relevant news and opportunities to get involved.