Study Collection Stores

The Study Collections Centre is the Horniman’s offsite storage facility which houses the majority of the Museum’s collections. 

Approximately 95% of the Anthropology and Natural History collections are stored in the Study Collections Centre (SCC), and 80% of the Musical Instrument collections.

The site is currently staffed by the Collections Management and Knowledge & Information Management teams. Over the years we have endeavoured to improve the care, storage and documentation of the collections.

Since the SCC was acquired in the late 1960s, the level of storage has developed from a haphazard pile of objects to a well organised facility. The majority of objects stored using conservation-approved storage containers and techniques.

The stored collections are very important as they provide material for research, temporary exhibitions and loans to other museums. They are frequently used by Horniman staff and the public for study and in publications.

The Horniman encourages the study and use of the collections by researchers. A small percentage of the collections are on display in the Museum, some items are on loan to other institutions and the rest are kept in the Museum’s Study Collections Centre (London). The Museum endeavours to make all of its collections available for research purposes and access is free.

  • The Keepers/Deputy Keepers of the collections will judge requests to examine objects on a case-by-case basis and may sometimes refuse access.
  • They will base their decision on the nature of the research, the condition of the object(s), the availability of the object(s), and any appropriate legal, ethical or health and safety concerns.
  • Any access that may harm an object or show lack of respect to the cultural origin of the object will be refused.
  • Some objects may not be available (for example, if they are already being examined by other visitors, or are being conserved). It can sometimes be impossible to remove items from display for research purposes. In such instances, the Keeper/Deputy Keeper will try and suggest alternative objects to examine.
  • Due to lack of space, there may be a restriction on visitors examining some of the larger or heavier items in the collections. However, the Horniman will always try to accommodate any requests.
  • Facilities are available at the Museum for wheelchair users to view the majority of the stored collections. The Study Collections Centre is not accessible for wheelchair users.
  • The Horniman will endeavour to make the information about the collections accessible to researchers. Access to some collections information including valuation, location and some donor information will be restricted.
  • Any information supplied is only an opinion and not an authentication.
  • Researchers are asked to abide by this policy and the associated procedure below. Staff reserve the right to terminate the research visit at any time.

An application should be made to the Keeper of the relevant collection directly or via details of our staff.

Applicants should:

  • state the nature of their research;
  • any requirements they may have regarding the study of the collection; and
  • the names and Museum numbers of the objects to be examined (where possible).

The Curator will liaise with Collections Management / Collections Conservation and Care staff as to the proposed visit.

Applicants should be prepared to provide written references if required.

The Curator will assess the application, give permission and outline any restrictions.

Applicants should inform the Curator or the Collections Manager beforehand if they are likely to be accompanied by any other person on their visit.

Restrictions on access

  • Appointments to examine objects are normally made for working days between 10.30am and 4.30pm at the Museum and 10am and 4.30pm at the Study Collections Centre (SCC). The appointment time for entomology reference collections are between 9am and 4pm.
  • Facilities are available at the Museum for wheelchair users to view the majority of the stored collections. The Study Collections Centre is not accessible for wheelchair users.
  • Due to lack of space, there may be a restriction on visitors examining some of the larger or heavier items in the Museum’s collections. However, we will always do our best to accommodate people’s requests.

Collections on display

  • Specimens may not be removed from display during public opening hours
  • Staff removing objects from display should first seek advice from the Collections Conservation and Care Section
  • When the item is to be removed from display for longer than one working day, staff must record its temporary location on MIMSY.

Access to information about collections

  • Access to object-related information will also be supervised and is subject to the same restrictions and rules as access to the objects themselves.
  • Visitors should identify resources they will need when they first contact the Curator of the relevant collection.
  • Access to certain categories of information may be restricted.


  • Access to collections will be supervised by the Curators, collections management or conservation staff as appropriate.
  • No member of staff should attempt to supervise more than one research visit at a time.
  • If visitors are taken into any of the Museum’s storage areas, they must be accompanied by a member of staff at all times


  • Visitors must abide by any conditions relating to handling outlined by the supervising member of staff Conservation staff may wish to provide handling training for the visitor, depending on the nature of the objects to be examined.
  • All visitors handling objects will be expected to wear gloves. These will be provided by the Museum.
  • Visitors are not permitted to play upon instruments without the express permission of the Musical Instrument Curators; such permission can only be granted in exceptional circumstances.
  • Drawing implements should be of plastic, or, if of metal, any points or edges should be covered.
  • Researchers must use pencils for note-taking. Pens, biros, felt tips, solvent-based fixing sprays, and wet painting materials etc. are not permitted.

Procedure for Research Visits

  • Prior to the visit, the member of staff arranging the visit will send instructions on how to get to the SCC or the Museum and a copy of these access notes.
  • Visitors must bring a form of identification with them such as a passport or driving licence.
  • On arrival, research visitors will be asked to sign the visitors’ book with their name, address/institution and reason for visit. They will also be asked to sign a visitor indemnity form.
  • Coats and bags will not be allowed into the area where objects are to be studied.
  • Lockers will be provided for visitors’ belongings.
  • Museum staff reserve the right to search visitors bags and vehicles.
  • Smoking is not permitted in any part of the Study Collections Centre or the main Museum.
  • Eating and drinking is only permitted in areas of the Study Collections Centre dedicated to that purpose.
  • Any new information about the objects studied must be passed onto Museum staff to add to our knowledge of the collections.
  • Where the research is part of an undergraduate or postgraduate thesis, the researcher should provide the Museum with a copy of the completed thesis.
  • The Museum will undertake to cover the costs of copying the thesis. The Museum would greatly appreciate receipt of reprints of any publications arising from research on the collections.
  • When an object is to be removed from its home location for longer than one working day for study by a visitor, the person supervising the visit must record its temporary location on MIMSY.

Additional visitor procedures where research will take longer than 3 days

Applicants must either come from a recognised institution, that is, a museum or an institution of higher education.
Applicants must provide the Curator of the collection with a written reference from an acknowledged authority.

  • At least one month’s notice of the visit must be given to Curators, conservation and collections management staff.
  • The prospective researcher may be required to meet the relevant Curator in advance of their visit to discuss their research proposal.
  • Conservation staff will provide handling training for the visitor, whenever it is felt necessary, before they commence their research on the collection.
  • Conservation staff will reserve the right not to let objects be handled without supervision.


  • It will be necessary to sign an Application for Photographing Museum Objects Form before photographing any specimens. This form assigns copyright in the photographs to the Horniman Museum and Gardens.
  • Copies of all photographs should be sent to the relevant Keeper at the Horniman.
  • No fee will be charged for photographs taken for private research purposes. Should publication be considered, a separate application should be made on the appropriate Application for Reproduction Rights form.

If you are interested in borrowing an object, please see our loans page and download the guidance and policy documents available there.

We do not run regular tours of the SCC. However, any tours that take place would be advertised in our what’s on pages and on our social channels.

Best practice for the long-term conservation and care of museum objects has evolved over time. Like most museums, the Horniman is dealing with a legacy of the past.

Keeping up with the day-to-day running of the SCC means that it can be difficult to deal with backlogs relating to storage and documentation.

Volunteers at the SCC assist with improving the storage and collections care, as well as making the collections more accessible for research and to the wider general public. Regular work undertaken by volunteers at the SCC includes:

  • Assisting with the rationalisation of the storage of the collections
  • Cleaning object record images for our collections database MIMSY
  • Assisting with documenting the collections
  • Retrieving and packing objects for conservation, exhibition, loan or special projects
  • Packing and storing objects on return from exhibitions etc

If you are interested in volunteering for the Horniman, please visit our volunteering pages.