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Our Natural History collection contains over 250,000 specimens of local, national and worldwide origin. This includes thousands of specimens collected in the 19th century as part of the original Horniman bequest. Many thousands more specimens were added to the collection throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries for the purpose of education, display, reference and research.

Our collection is varied and contains a range of biological and geological material and its associated data. We have taxidermy cases and mounts, study skins, whole skeletons and bones, dried pressed plants, fungi, mollusc shells, birds' eggs, pinned insects, histological slides, models, fluid preserved material, fossils, minerals and rocks. Some parts of the collection also contain detailed associated field notebooks, photographs and other archival information, including those of Hampshire taxidermist and wildfowler Edward Hart.

Due to its age, our collection includes examples of rare fossils and animals collected from many parts of the world. We also hold a number of type specimens associated with the collections of Frederick Horniman and Dr J. P. Brock. Today our collections are researched, developed and used to encourage a deeper understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the natural world. Some of our more notable collections are listed below.

Type specimens

  • Horniman’s Insect Collection: around 4700 butterflies, over 2000 beetles and almost 500 specimens of other insects collected around the world. This includes syntypes of the Horniman Beetle and Horniman Swallowtail Butterfly.
  • J. P.Brock’s Collection of Parasitic Wasps and other Hymneoptera: over 14,000 specimens, mostly collected by J. P. Brock.

Zoology

  • Edward Hart Collection of taxidermy cased British Birds: 250 habitat cases of 19thand early 20thC. taxidermy collected from Christchurch, Hampshire.
  • Samuel Prout Newcombe Collection of taxidermy mounts and assorted Natural History material.
  • John Cooper Osteology Collection:350 osteology specimens of British mammals.
  • Kings and Chelsea Osteology Collection:around 2000 fluid preserved and osteology specimens.
  • Wellcome Collection: around 200 assorted zoological specimens and our Merman.
  • J. J. Collins Collectionof British Coleoptera: 13,600 specimens.

Geology

  • Walter H. Bennett Collection: over 175,000 individual fossil specimens, includes  material collected from Solnhofen Limestone, Hunsrück Slate and the Burgess Shale.
  • Arthur Wyatt Collection: around 1700 specimens, (includes some fossils) photographic slides and field notes.