Containing around three-quarters of a million specimens, the botanical collection forms a physical record of where plants and fungi have been found. The Museum collection has grown from the mid-19th century onwards as people with a passion for the natural world have donated their personal collections. The backbone of the collection was created by merging three large private collections from James Cosmo Melvill (worldwide plants donated in 1904), Leopold Hartley Grindon (cultivated plants donated in 1910) and Charles Bailey (European plants donated in 1917). The most recent significant addition has been the collection of British brambles donated by Alan Newton in 2012.
Housed in the Museum’s botanical storeroom, the Herbarium, most of the botanical specimens are dried, pressed and mounted onto sheets of paper or stored in paper envelopes. These are all labelled with the plant name, who picked it, where from and when. As well as the pressed plants the collection also contains dried fruits and seeds, timbers, microscope slides, illustrations, models, fungi and jars of medicinal plants.
Today, the collection is used for art, science and education to explore and interpret the world around us.