NHM Diatom Collections

The Diatom Collections at the Natural History Museum

The Museum holds an incredible collection of over 300,000 glass slides of processed diatom specimens (with probably more than 3,000 types), bottles of raw material and herbarium sheets,  from the early 19th century to the present day alongside  with published sets, fossil diatomite as well as photographic images, SEM stubs, lantern slides, drawings and related literature.

The collections are of great historical significance as many of the early collectors donated their collections to the Museum.  The collections also have a comprehensive assortment of fossil specimens, including one of the best representations of Cretaceous diatoms.

The collections include freshwater, brackish and marine representatives and are extremely geographically and taxonomically diverse, with all major diatom groups - both fossil and recent – represented. It has also particularly significant material/collections from various areas of the British Isles.
Our collections have also some of the very first diatom specimens described.

Collections such as F. Adams, R. K.  Greville, W. Smith, J. R. Carter, T. Comber, F. T. Kützing, G. R. Hendey, and W. Gregory are some to list amongst various others.

There is also around 20,000 card indexes. The cards contain important information enabling the collections to be addressed/accessed via species names. Each card can have up to 25 annotations or more, which include, the slide number where it has been observed as well as other information (e.g. Highlighted as type, or variety, etc.).

Read more about diatoms including access to the collections

The diatoms themselves are very relevant to modern research such as climate change, determinations of phylogenetic relationships, and estimations of recent (post industrial revolution) ecological change i.e. as environmental indictors as well as some aspects of oil exploration.

Read more about research developed at the Natural History Museum

Get up close with diatoms

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith