History museum

The Natural History Museum to collaborate on a brand new digital project to virtually bring together Sir Hans Sloane’s collections


The Sloane Lab: a look back to build future shared collections will work with expert and interested communities, including the museum public, to link the present to the past in order to enable the reestablishment of the links between Sloane’s collections and catalogs in these national institutions as well as others who need to relevant material.

The main output of the project will be a freely available online digital lab that will provide researchers, curators and the public with new opportunities to research, explore and critically engage on key questions about our digital cultural heritage.

Dr Mark Carine, curator at the Natural History Museum, is one of the co-investigators of this project. He says: “The natural history specimens collected by Sloane constitute the de facto foundational collection of the Natural History Museum. This is a collection of significant scientific value which is still widely consulted as it provides a unique source of information about the natural world, how it has changed and how we have interacted with it over the past 300 years. .

“Information on Sloane’s natural history collections is already available to anyone using the database online, but this project will allow us to further open up Sloane’s vast collection of plant specimens and virtually bring together his various collections which are now spread across multiple institutions. Reconnecting Sloane’s collections will allow users to query these collections in new ways, it will allow us to better understand the historical context in which they were collected and help discover new ways of using these collections today.

Project partners include: British Museum, Natural History Museum, British Library, Historic Environment Scotland, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, National Museums of Scotland, Archives and Records Association, Down County Museum, National Galleries of Scotland, Oxford University Herbaria , Collecting the West project funded by the Australian Research Council & metaphacts. The principal investigator is Professor Julianne Nyhan, University College London and TU Darmstadt.

The Sloane Herbarium at the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum houses Sloane’s natural history collections. The Sloane Herbarium, which contains approximately 120,000 plant specimens grouped into 265 volumes, is the largest preserved botanical collection from the late 1600s and early 1700s when Sloane was active and it contains plants collected from more from 70 countries and territories around the world. Antarctica and Australasia are the only continents not represented. The first seven volumes include specimens collected during Sloane’s trip to Jamaica (1687-1689). The volumes are kept in a room dedicated to special collections.

The museum also houses collections of other Sloane natural history specimens, books, manuscripts and correspondence. It includes its handwritten catalogs which give details of the specimens currently in the museum’s life and earth sciences departments. These 19 volumes indicate the origin of the specimens currently kept in the departments of botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology of the Museum.

Towards a national collection

The Sloane Lab is one of five new discovery projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of Towards a national collection, a major five-year research and development program that aims to support the creation of a unified virtual ‘national collection’, breaking down barriers between the different collections of UK museums, archives, libraries and galleries. Towards a national collection was rewarded £ 14.5million from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to transform online exploration of UK culture and heritage collections by harnessing innovative AI. Other projects include:

· The congruence engine: digital tools for new industrial stories based on collections – who will create the prototype of a digital toolbox for all those who are fascinated by our industrial past to connect an unprecedented range of objects from the national collection to tell the stories they want to tell.

· Our Heritage, Our Stories: Linking and Searching for Community-Generated Digital Content to Develop the People’s National Collection – who remove existing barriers and develop scalable linkages and discoverability for community-generated digital content, through the co-design and creation of sophisticated and automated AI-based tools to discover and assess CGDC “in nature ”, in order to link it and make it searchable.

· Transforming collections: reinventing art, nation and heritage – which aims to allow the cross-search of collections, to reveal models of bias, to discover hidden connections and to open new interpretive frameworks and “potential histories” of art, nation and heritage

· Unpath’d Waters: Marine and Maritime Collections in the United Kingdom – who aims to reshape the future of the UK’s marine heritage, making records accessible for the first time in all four UK countries and opening them up to the world

The five “Discovery Projects” will harness the potential of new technologies to break down barriers between collections – opening up access to the public and facilitating research through a range of sources and stories preserved in different physical locations. One of the main objectives is to empower and diversify audiences by involving them in research and creating new ways for them to access and interact with collections. In addition to innovative online access, the projects will generate artist commissions, community grants, computer simulations and traveling exhibitions. The survey is the largest of its kind to be undertaken to date, anywhere in the world. It spans across the UK, involving 15 universities and 63 heritage collections and institutions of varying scales, with over 120 individual researchers and collaborators.

Together, the Discovery projects represent a vital step in the UK’s ambition to maintain its leadership in interdisciplinary research, both between different disciplines in the humanities and between the humanities and other fields. Towards a National Collection will set a global standard for other countries creating their own collections, strengthening collaboration between the UK’s renowned heritage and national collections around the world.


For more information or to get in touch with program or project spokespersons, please contact:

Ellen Ffrench [email protected] / +44 7805 934 24

Claire Thomas [email protected] / +44 7877 651 976

· Website: www.nationalcollection.org.uk

Twitter: @nat_collection

Instagram: @ national.collection

Social media management: #CollectionNationale

Notes to Editors:

About the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is both a leading scientific research center and the most visited natural history museum in Europe. With a vision for a future in which people and the planet thrive, he is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion in balancing the needs of humanity with those of the natural world.

He is the custodian of one of the most important scientific collections in the world comprising more than 80 million specimens. The scale of this collection allows researchers around the world to document how species have responded and continue to respond to environmental changes, which is essential to help predict what might happen in the future and to inform policies and plans. future to help the planet.

The Museum’s 300 scientists continue to represent one of the largest groups in the world studying and enabling research on all aspects of the natural world. Their science provides critical data to help the global fight to save the planet’s future from the major threats of climate change and biodiversity loss through the search for solutions such as sustainable extraction of natural resources.

The Museum uses its enormous global reach and influence to fulfill its mission of creating Earth Defenders – to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome more than five million visitors each year; our digital output reaches hundreds of thousands of people in over 200 countries every month and our traveling exhibitions have been viewed by approximately 30 million people over the past 10 years.

About Towards a national collection

Towards a National Collection is a major five-year research and development program that aims to support the creation of a unified virtual ‘national collection’ by removing barriers between the different collections of museums, archives, libraries and galleries across the UK. United. Its ambition is to extend and diversify the access of researchers and the public to our world-renowned collections beyond the physical limits of their location. The innovation driven by the program will help maintain the UK’s global leadership in digital humanities and set global standards in the field. The program is funded through an investment of £ 18.9million from the UK Strategic Priorities Fund for Research and Innovation (UKRI) and implemented by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) . Program leadership is based at the Independent Research Organization, Historic Environment Scotland.

About the Arts and Humanities Research Council

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, funds internationally renowned independent researchers across the spectrum of the arts and humanities: history, archeology, digital content, philosophy, languages ​​and literature , design, heritage, field of study, the creative and performing arts, and much more. The quality and range research supported by AHRC works for the good of British society and culture and contributes both to the economic success of the UK and to the culture and well-being of societies across the world.



Your email address will not be published.