The Conservation Centre at the Natural History Museum

The Conservation Centre is one of the world’s leading conservation and preservation facilities. Working on the entire range of natural history materials it provides a unique resource to the Natural History Museum, London. Centre staff undertake preparation and conservation work and provide primary care for objects ranging from modern anthropological and ethnographic specimens to scientific glass models, zoological skins and dinosaur fossils. The Centre runs training courses and provides conservation and consultancy services to museums and other institutions around the world and is recognised for its high levels of expertise and service.

The Facility

The Conservation Centre comprises two main laboratory areas plus a comprehensive training library. Specimens are protected to a high level of security and the unit is structured to be flexible and responsive to any task it is challenged with. The Centre (which can also be used as a conservation teaching facility) contains all standard conservation and preparation equipment plus state of the art equipment such as dual wavelength laser, humidity chambers, micro-environmental control and monitoring equipment and lifting and handling equipment for objects of up to 2 tons.

Specimen Preparation

The Centre provides preparation support for the Palaeontology Department, undertaking both chemical and mechanical preparation. A dedicated acid laboratory provides state of the art chemical preparation facilities that allow staff to undertake acid preparation to a high level of precision.

Preventative Conservation

Assessing risk to and defining standards for collections is an important area of the Centre’s work. Our work in developing preventative conservation techniques is recognised internationally. Centre staff advise museums around the world on the development of best practice in preventative conservation and lecture widely on this topic.

The Centre specialises in passive environmental management and specimen storage for museum objects providing advice and technical support to a range of museums, libraries and related institutions. We are world leaders in the use of passive and actively controlled environments to control deterioration in specimens, in particular the use of oxygen free environments. The unit also works closely with commercial contractors to develop new conservation products, recently developing a new passive anoxic enclosure for oxygen and humidity sensitive meteorites.


Staff have a range of experience in the development and planning of exhibitions. We can advise on all aspects of exhibition including:

- Case design
- Environmental control and monitoring
- Supports and packaging
- Shipping and handling of sensitive specimens
- Condition reports
- Exhibition installation
- Lighting


The Conservation Centre runs a range of internal and external training courses accredited by the Natural History Museum. Staff have presented training courses for a range of clients throughout North America, Australasia, China, Europe and Africa providing training in all areas of collection care, specimen conservation and environmental management. Training provided on-site at the Natural History Museum can be undertaken on a one-on-one basis or for larger groups. Unit staff recently ran successful training courses at the Geological Museum of China and for EDIT-DEST on Geological and Natural History Conservation respectively as well as courses on environmental monitoring and glass conservation.

Casting and Moulding

The Centre runs a highly successful casting and moulding program. Museums and research institutions across the world have relied on our expertise to supply high quality replicas. We have supplied dinosaur replicas such as Baryonyx and Hypsilophodon to museums including the Hayashibara Museum of Natural Sciences, Japan and Toulouse Museum, France. The NHM also supplies replicas for the film and television industry- for example, the production of casts of Archaeopteryx for filming by the BBC.


Staff in the Centre are involved in research in a number of important areas in preventative and remedial conservation and pest management. These include:

- Laser cleaning
- Reduced oxygen environments
- Passive environmental management
- Remedial techniques in conservation
- Material stability and oddy testing

Staff undertake testing of all the materials used in the lab to ensure that they are of conservation grade and will not harm the objects we work on.

Commercial and Advisory Work

The CC regularly undertakes advisory and consultancy work for institutions worldwide in collections care, replication, preparation and conservation.

Our work includes practical conservation and preparation work as well as surveys, benchmarking and risk, environmental assessments and performance management. Recent projects have been undertaken for institutions as diverse as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, British Museum, National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution), The Rwandan Government, Geological Museum of China, Marciana Library, Venice and the British Library, Furman and Kentucky Universities.

Restoration and Remedial Conservation

The unit has a world-side reputation in the development of new techniques for stabilising, restoring and conserving museum specimens. These include the development of new laser techniques for cleaning the entire range of museum specimens. In particular the lab has a vast amount of experience in conservation of natural history, anthropological and ethnographic materials.

The unit has specialised in treatments such as pyrite treatment, stabilisation of sub-fossil bone and cleaning and consolidation of inorganic and organic materials. Techniques used are at the cutting edge of conservation and are often part of a more holistic approach to specimen conservation involving both preventative and remedial conservation techniques.

Facilities such as professional photography, specialist metalwork and paper conservation are all housed within the NHM and are available to the Conservation Centre when required.

For more information please contact:

Chris Collins
The Conservation Centre, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London. SW7 5BD.
Tel: +44 (020) 7942 5039; Fax: +44 (020) 7942 5546

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