Global distribution of the digitised specimens in the Museum's collections.

A data portal visualisation showing the global distribution of the Museum's specimens with digital records

The Museum provides open access to the data that we have about the natural world.

Data is held on our innovative Data Portal and in stand-alone datasets.

Anyone can access the variety of data held by the Museum, which includes:

  • collection information
  • images
  • sounds
  • videos
  • research results
  • 3D scans

Why are collections data useful?

We are now in a critical period: humans have had a major impact on the distribution of biodiversity, radically affecting landscapes through industrialisation, increased consumption of natural resources, pollution and climate change.

Our data is vital in tackling current scientific challenges - our natural history collections provide a unique historical perspective on the distribution of biodiversity and geodiversity over the last 200 years.

Digitising our collections

One of the main contributors to the Data Portal is the Digital Collections Programme, initiated in 2014 to digitise and release data about the 80 million items in our collection. 

By tracking the usage of the Data Portal and the citations of Museum data, we can understand the global impact of our digitisation and data sharing efforts.

Since 2015 over 4,660,000 of the Museum's specimens have been added to the Data Portal. These have seen over 24 billion downloads over 330,000 download events. We also currently track 700 scientific papers citing Museum data.

Using the Data Portal

The Data Portal provides open access to important research datasets produced by Museum scientists as well as digitised objects from the Museum's specimen collection. By releasing these datasets freely online, the Museum enables researchers from anywhere in the world to access and use the data in their own research.

We use Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) that can be used to retrieve the exact data repeatedly at any time after the original download event. This is important because it allows scientists to check and re-use others data. DOIs also make it easier to track both the usage and impact of research and collections datasets. 

The Data Portal will continue to expand its offer of data and features available for users. Providing links to additional resources related to digitised specimens is particularly important, allowing researchers to use new representations and analysis such as related genomic datasets or 3D scans of objects.

Stand-alone datasets

Before the introduction of the Data Portal in 2015, the Museum provided data to a variety of datasets and collections. In time these will be migrated onto the Data Portal for ease of access, but in the meantime you can access these additional datasets below.

Global Lepidoptera Names Index

Includes all Lepidoptera superfamilies (over 303,000 names in total).

Universal Chalcidoidea Database

Over 22,000 species have been described and catalogued.

UK species

Over 70,000 species of animals, plants, fungi and single-celled organisms are found in the UK.