Diatom collections

Arranged fossil diatoms

Arranged fossil diatoms (Specimen BM Adams TS 558) from Bory-Slovakia

The Museum's diatom collection is one of the largest in the world, containing over 300,000 specimens accumulated from the early nineteenth century to the present day.



Type specimens





The collections are a crucial resource for modern research, diatom specimens are used to answer scientific questions about areas as diverse as climate change and phylogenetic relationships.

The collections are extremely geographically and taxonomically diverse. They are an internationally recognised type specimen repository, containing representatives from freshwater, brackish and marine environments.

All major diatom groups, both fossil and recent, are represented.

The comprehensive assortment of fossil specimens, includes one of the best representations of Cretaceous diatoms.

Type specimens

Estimated 10,000

Confirmed 5,000

Material type

Microscope slides collections 150,000

Bottle collection 35,000

Herbarium sheets 7,500

Diatomite (rocks and sediments) 1,500

Other resources

SEM stubs

Non-permanent strews

LM micrographs

SEM images

Handwritten notes


Sketches and drawings

Index card files

Looking for a specimen?

The diatom collection is being digitised

Any Questions?

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


Major collections

The Museum's diatom collection has a large number of historical and recent specimens and accompanying materials amassed by British and foreign diatomists as well as a variety of published diatoms exsiccate sets. 

Important collectors

  • Robert K.aye Greville (1794-1866)
  • William Gregory (1803-1858)
  • Friedrich T.raugott Kützing (1807-1893)
  • William Smith (1853-1856)
  • Edmund Grove (1823-1911)
  • Gerald Sturt (1860-1947)
  • Frederic Kitton (1827-18951885)
  • John Ralfs (1807-1890)
  • Julien Marc Deby (1826-1895
  • Eugene O’Meara (1815-1880)
  • Freeman C. S. Roper (1819-1896)
  • Bernard Hartley (1917-2007)
  • William A. Firth (1853-1923)
  • George H. K. Thwaites (1812-1882)
  • John R. Carter (1908-1993)
  • Norman I. Hendey (1903-2004)
  • Robert Ross (1912-2005)
  • Eileen J. Cox
  • Thomas B. B. Paddock
  • David M. Williams
  • Patricia A. Sims

Other important collections 

  • Tempére & Peragallo: (Diatomeés du Monde Entier, 1st and 2nd editions).
  • Cleve & Möller: (Diatoms, 1877-1882).
  • H. L. Smith: (Diatomacearum Species Typicae, 1876-1888).
  • G. L. Rabenhorst: (Die Algen Sachsens, 1848-1860; Die Bacillarien Sachsens. Ein Beitrag zur Fauna von Sachsen, 1849-1852).
  • Hamilton, Poulin, Charles & Angell: (Americanarum Diatomarum Exsiccate, 1992-1994).
  • A. Tuji: (Algae Aquae Dulcis Japonicae Exsiccatae, 2007-2016).

Country of origin

Collections are geographically diverse. Parts of the slide collection are assembled from particular geographic localities or expeditions:

  • Russia (Lake Baikal in Siberia)
  • Indonesia (Lake Toba, Sumatra)
  • Jamaica
  • Philippines

Collections on the move

Access to some collections will be affected as we prepare for the move to our new collections, science and digitisation centre.

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.