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Natural History Museum at Harwell

The Natural History Museum is evolving. Currently scheduled for opening in 2026, the new centre at Harwell will be a vast resource for the natural sciences enabled by state-of-the-art technology. Access to one of the world’s most significant natural history collections will be revolutionised for R&D and international scientific innovation, supporting global efforts to tackle the planetary emergency.

What is it?

With over 80 million specimens, spanning 4.5 billion years from across the globe and beyond, the Natural History Museum collections are a powerful scientific tool. This ambitious new science and digitisation centre will bring together historical collections with cutting-edge research facilities to develop new solutions for nature. A third of the world-famous museum’s collections – some 28 million specimens – will be rehoused at Harwell in a sustainably-built new facility. The size of four football pitches, the centre will include leading-edge collections storage and conservation facilities, laboratories, digitisation and imaging suites, and collaborative workspaces for visiting scientists. Funded through a government investment of £182 million, this national resource will widen access to the priceless collections for the benefit not only of British scientists, but for researchers everywhere.

The new centre will take a 21st century approach to collections-based science. It will secure the future of the collections, ensure the vast data contained in them are safe, accessible and digitally available for researchers all over the world, and provide a leading research infrastructure to tackle urgent global challenges. It will house valuable specimens from every ocean and land mass on the planet from the beginnings of time, from large mammals to molecular oceanic life-forms, as well as 5,500 linear metres of accompanying library material.

Researchers will be able to apply the latest technologies including Big Data, artificial intelligence, imaging and genomic analysis to the collections to gain a deeper understanding of natural diversity. The centre will be a vital resource for tackling the existential challenges of our age including climate change, biodiversity loss and emerging diseases. It will be both a national facility and an international collaboration hub, supporting a deeper understanding of the biosphere across time.

Who can use it?

In addition to the Museum’s 300 scientists the centre will be open to visiting researchers, students and industrial partners.

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