Accessing the collections
Each year collections staff host over 10,000 visiting scientists, students, artists and collections management specialists.
Access to the Museum's collections may also be granted to:
- volunteer workers
- responsible members of natural history organisations
- private citizens with a demonstrable academic interest in our collections.
Visitors are only admitted by appointment. This page contains information for visiting scientists and research students; for information for other sectors please see the access for non-scientists page.
Scientists and research students
The Museum's collections are spread across three sites:
- South Kensington in London - housing most staff and collections
- Tring in Hertfordshire - housing the Bird Group and collections
- an off-site storage facility in Wandsworth, south London
How to arrange a research visit
Professionals with genuine research interests needing to visit the Museum’s research staff or collections must first contact the appropriate collections manager to act as a host. The prospective visitor should also be an approved borrower.
- Approved borrower application form PDF (39.7KB)
- Approved borrower application form (student version) PDF (40KB)
A statement of intent and confirmation of institutional affiliation may be required before visits are authorised. Research scientists and students who wish to work in the collections should apply at least two months before any anticipated visit.
This is to:
- take into account allocation of space and resources by the department
- allow enough time to process forms for identification credentials
- enable the arrangement of library access, stipends and email
- ensure appropriate scientific staff will be available during the visit
- ensure adequate laboratory space and equipment are available.
Our off-site facility is not staffed so access to material held here is dependent on the availability of staff to accompany you.
If you wish to bring comparative material with you when you visit the Museum's collections, please discuss this with your host when arranging your visit. It may need to be frozen to comply with the Museum’s Integrated Pest Management policy and procedures before it will be allowed into our collection spaces.
All specimens brought into the Museum are subject to international wildlife import and export laws. Please contact us well in advance if you are planning to bring CITES regulated specimens to the Museum.
Support offered to research visitors
During your visit to the collections we will:
- provide you with access to the collections
- provide an area for you to work
- help you locate material in our collection
- help you locate relevant literature
- provide you with basic tools and a microscope where possible
- facilitate any loan requests you have resulting from your visit
- provide you with access to any facility that you have asked to use and agreed to pay for under the facilities charges, such as the Imaging and Anlalysis Centre.
Please bring your own equipment if possible - for example microscope, computer, or camera. PCs are available on a limited basis for word processing, email and internet access. In some areas we also have wireless access. Charges apply to the use of copiers and colour printers.
We expect scientists working with the collections to enhance their value through contributing to their history and care, so you will be asked to:
- provide us with a record of specimens you re-identify or re-interpret
- record what material you look at and let us know if anything is damaged or infested
- provide copies of images that you take - the Museum retains copyright of all images of its specimens, replicas, moulds or casts, etc,
- use a template to gather data that is compatible with our electronic collections management system if you prepare a database of part of our collection, so that we can import it,
- provide a copy of any future publications citing Museum specimens - failure to comply with this request may result in refusal of access to the collections in the future,
- report breaks or other damage noted or incurred during your visit to your host,
- follow Museum security, health and safety and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) procedures as requested.
You will also be asked about providing facility fees.
Collection material can be loaned for scientific research purposes to approved borrowers, subject to certain conditions.
It is Museum policy to expect researchers in the UK to make a study visit to the Museum rather than request a loan. This is to save fragile and wet-preserved material having to be committed to the post unnecessarily.
Arranging a loan
All loan requests should be directed to the appropriate collections manager or curator.
Before contacting them, researchers wishing to access information on the Museum’s collections should first consult our online collections.
Please be aware that it can take 1-3 months to fully process most loan requests due to the large volume of loans handled.
As well a researchers, we also offer access to the collections by appointment for:
- amateur naturalists
- volunteers and work experience applicants
- collections management and museum studies groups
- the media.