History museum

The Natural History Museum offers a new facility in Shinfield

The Natural History Museum has announced plans to open a major new global research center in Shinfield.

The proposal, subject to planning permission from Wokingham Council, would see the facility built at the Thames Valley Science Park, alongside a science and digitization centre. If approved, it should be completed by 2026.

The government-funded space would house around 27 million museum artifacts currently at risk of damage and deterioration – the biggest movement in its collection since the 1880s – because current storage conditions are no longer suitable.

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The museum says it would support a range of projects aimed at tackling challenges facing the planet, such as biodiversity loss and finding ways to extract natural resources more sustainably.

The science park is owned and run by the University of Reading, which won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize last year for its work on climate change.

Director of the Natural History Museum, Doug Gurr, said: “The University of Reading has a world-class reputation for teaching and research and there are enormous opportunities for collaboration in common areas of scientific specialisms. .

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The science park is already home to the Cine Valley project, a film and television production facility, as well as the Gateway Building – which houses the offices and labs of biomedical, biotech and health science companies.

The British Museum is also planning an archaeological research center at the site – a specialist unit housing thousands of ancient sculptures, mosaics and other artefacts.

Mr. Gurr added, “We look forward to joining the vibrant community of ambitious knowledge-based organizations.”

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The building would house about a third of the museum’s 80 million strong collection, ranging from microscopic creatures and ocean floor sediments to the remains of large mammals like whales.

It would also have state-of-the-art storage and preservation facilities, scanning and imaging suites, laboratories, cryogenic facilities and high-end computer areas.

The museum has only digitized 6% of its data so far, but it has already helped projects such as finding wheat crops more resilient to climate change and researching how Covid-19 may have move from animals to humans.

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Councilor Lindsay Ferris, Executive Member of Local Planning and Planning, said: “Having declared a climate emergency in 2019 and playing as full a role as possible in bringing our carbon footprint to net zero by 2030, we are proud that an organization that can make such a difference internationally wants to be based here.

The museum will seek community input on its proposal before submitting a planning application.

University of Reading Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Van de Noort said: “This is an exciting development for the University of Reading. This could provide significant opportunities for our scholars and students, while bringing benefits to the entire region. »