Digital collections programme

Project summary

  • Focus: To digitise 80 million specimens from one of the world's most important natural history collections
  • Funding: The Natural History Museum
  • Start date: 2014
  • End date: ongoing 

Mobilising the world’s natural history collections for the benefit of human well-being. 

Natural history collections hold critical information necessary to tackle fundamental scientific and societal challenges of our time.

From conserving the biodiversity on which our wellbeing and our planet’s health depend, to finding new ways of combating disease and extracting mineral resources.

At present this information is locked away within hundreds of millions of specimens, labels and archives distributed across the globe, available to just a handful of scientists.

We want to unlock this treasure trove of information so that citizen scientists, researchers and data analysts from all over the world can access it.  

The Museum's Digital Collections Programme was initiated in 2014 to digitise and release the collections data.

Below you will find details of the work we’ve done so far, and how you can help us in our effort to make our collections data available to all. 

Pilot projects

Pilot projects help us to determine how best to digitise each type of collection.

The projects are helping us to establish high-throughput digital capture workflows for all major collection types.

The collections chosen have global relevance and their digitisation will allow our scientists to conduct important scientific research using the captured data and images.

Museum staff

Digital collections blog

Catch up with the latest digitisation techniques and technology.

Digitisation projects

Helping scientists study the biggest animals on Earth

By scanning whale specimens, the Museum is making data easier to handle and accessible to researchers around the world.

Digitising Darwin's Fossil Mammals

We have produced new 3D models by scanning Darwin’s Fossil Mammals so more people can access them..

Digital georeferenced specimens data

Data portal

A team at the Museum has developed a Data Portal, giving the world digital access to the Museum’s collection data and research datasets.


Digital museum

We are digitising 80 million specimens from our collections to an online data portal.

Diversity and informatics research

Researching undiscovered diversity using big data.


The Museum's 80 million specimens form the world's most important natural history collection.