The Library and Archives collection

Watercolour of a Petaluridae

Original watercolour of a Petaluridae in its natural habitat, by Raymond Andress, 1995

The Museum’s Library and Archives maintains the world’s finest collection of natural history literature, artwork and manuscripts.

Whether you’re looking for incunabula from 1469 or cutting-edge research articles, we can help. Our comprehensive collection includes items to support your research, answer your questions and fire your imagination.

Visit the Museum's online repository to access publications from our scientists. Content in the repository is accessible to all and showcases the Museum's broad research output.

What's new

Digital versions of some of our unique artwork collections have been made available for the first time, the content of which belongs to the Public Domain. 

Our librarians and archivists have curated and developed the collection to meet the needs of researchers, curators and visitors since 1881. The collection contains more than one million items, including almost 400,000 books, 22,000 ongoing journal titles, 350,000 artworks and over 100,000 catalogued archival items.

Physical items are distributed between the Museum’s sites in South Kensington and Tring, and its remote storage facility. The collection includes original material, topographical and geological maps, photographs, monographs, and journals. We are also digitising the collection to make our materials available online for Museum staff and members of the public.

The collection, which can be searched in full from the Library and Archives homepage, is composed of a number of sub-collections:


The Archives mainly hold materials relating to the history of the Museum, including correspondence and research notes, specimen accession registers, architectural plans, expedition reports, and staff photographs and portraits.

Special collections

The Library’s special collections include some of the Museum’s most treasured items, from printed books and manuscripts to spectacular artwork. The art collections are particularly rich in material from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and include works from artists who made a significant contribution to our understanding of the natural world.


The Library at Tring holds most of the Museum’s ornithology literature, including the magnificent Rothschild collection.

South Kensington

The Library at South Kensington houses a comprehensive range of materials closely aligned with the Museum's research activities and specimen collections, focusing primarily on taxonomy, systematics, anthropology, botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology.

Highlights of the collection are described on the collection pages. You can look for individual items using the Library and Archives Discovery Layer, which searches across all physical and online resources held in our collections.

Open repository

Access publications from our scientists in the Museum's online repository, accessible to all.