The Natural History Museum in London is a world-class visitor attraction and leading science research centre.
The Museum in South Kensington first opened its doors on 18 April 1881, but its origins stretch back much further to the generous offer of a renowned doctor, Sir Hans Sloane.
Sloane travelled the world treating royalty and members of high society, while fulfilling his passion for collecting natural history specimens and cultural artefacts along the way. After his death in 1753, the government agreed to purchase Sloane’s collection - for significantly less than its value - and built the British Museum so that it could be displayed to the public.
A cathedral to nature
In 1856 Sir Richard Owen - a brilliant natural scientist who came up with the name for dinosaurs - left his role as curator of the Hunterian Museum and took charge of the British Museum’s natural history collection.
Unhappy with the lack of space for its ever-growing collection of natural history specimens, Owen convinced the British Museum's board of trustees that a separate building was needed to house these national treasures.
His vision was eventually realised in the construction of a dedicated museum of natural history, designed by architect Alfred Waterhouse. The building is one of Britain’s most striking examples of Romanesque architecture, and now considered a work of art in its own right.
The Museum remained part of the British Museum until 1963, when a separate board of trustees was appointed, and was officially renamed the Natural History Museum in 1992.
Learn more about the Museum’s history and architecture on our website.
The modern Museum
Today, we care for more than 80 million specimens spanning billions of years and welcome more than five million visitors annually. We use our unique collections and unrivalled expertise to tackle the biggest challenges facing the world today.
Visit our website to discover our collections, our science, and the natural world, or check out what there is to see when you visit.