The Natural History Museum (NHM) is set to relocate 27 million specimens, approximately a third of its collection, to a science and digitisation centre at Harwell Campus, opening in Oxfordshire in 2026.
Last year, the government pledged £182m to NHM to create the centre at Harwell Campus, which will strengthen the UK’s position in fighting climate change, biodiversity loss and emerging diseases.
“We are in a race against time to find evidence-based solutions to the major challenges facing our planet,” said Dr Tim Littlewood, executive director of science at NHM.
Science and digitisation centre at Harwell Campus
“We need accurate big data on nature to measure global change and inform future policies,” he added. “This new centre will allow us to generate and process that data through a major acceleration of our digitisation programme.”
Littlewood continued: “We are proud that the government has recognised the critical role both our global collections and research expertise can play in tackling the planetary emergency through this major investment in the natural sciences.”
NHM’s scientists will apply innovative technologies such as augmented reality (AR), imaging and genomic analysis to the collections at the centre to achieve a better understanding of natural diversity and how it is changing.
The facility will house the museum’s vast mammal collections, non-insect invertebrates, molecular collections and ocean bottom sediments. It will also be home to laboratories, digitisation suites, research spaces and laboratories.
NHM scientists to use innovative tech and AR
The centre will be located in two buildings, constructed using sustainable methods and materials. The relocation will also enhance the visitor experience at the Natural History Museum in London.
Clare Matterson, executive director of engagement at NHM, said the relocation will “release space in our galleries”, allowing the institution “to share even more of the collection with the public”.
“We’ve purposely chosen to develop the new centre at one of the leading hubs of technology and innovation in the UK and internationally because the collections are such a powerful scientific tool,” said Dr Doug Gurr, NHM director.
“It’s a unique opportunity to reshape the role museum collections play in research, for the benefit of the UK and our contribution to international research.”