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View and Use the Collections

The majority of our collections can be viewed online.

The Society’s Specimen Collections are housed in temperature and humidity controlled strongrooms at the Linnean Society.

High-resolution, zoomable images of our specimen collections can be viewed on our Online Collections.

Tours & visits

Use Collections store butterflies

We are offering tours for those with a general interest in the Collections if staff and resources are available. Please check the Events banner on our Homepage for details.

We particularly welcome people with a more specialised interest, for instance scientists, scholars, students or artists.

For group visits, please note that the maximum number of people allowed in the Collections Store at any one time is 15, so larger groups may have to be split.

All tours are subject to staff and space availability.

To arrange a group tour, please complete our Online Form.

Access for research


Use collections store shells

The historical nature of these collections often requires use of specimens together with printed and written material to understand the origins and taxonomic status of individual specimens.

Access to specimens for historical and scientific study is available within the Society by appointment only. Appointments are usually on Monday to Friday, between 10:00-17:00 only (excluding the period between Christmas and New Year, as well as UK Bank Holidays).

All appointments are subject to staff and space availability.

On days when Society or other Meetings take place, lack of working space or supervision may restrict access and use of the Collections. The Society reserves the right to limit access to times at which appropriate supervision and facilities are available.

For examination, Linnaean specimens are removed from the Collections Store by an authorized person to the Smithian Herbarium Store, where a bench with a binocular microscope is available, or to the Library Reading Room.

Please note that although there is a microscope available at the Society, it does not currently have a light-source. If sophisticated technical equipment is required, the relevant Curator may arrange for the specimens to be taken to either the Natural History Museum or to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. This may be done only by a Curator or those authorized by the Curator to act in this capacity.

Please contact the Librarian to make an appointment:

Email Lynda Brooks or phone Tel: +44 (0)20 7434 4479 EXT 23


The collections are not made available for loan.


No preparation of whatever kind shall be made from any specimen except with the specific permission of a Curator. Such permission would only be granted where a nomenclatural or serious systematic question needed to be resolved. If agreed, the results must be deposited as part of the Collections.

Images and Online Collections

The Society’s Online Collections provide free open access to high-resolution, zoomable images for all Linnaean Specimen Collections: the Herbarium, and the Insect, Fish & Shell Collections.

The Smith Herbarium will be added by 2013. Related paper-based material such as the Linnaean Correspondence is also available, and will be complemented by scans of the Linnaean Annotated Library by 2013. They are Carl Linnaeus’ own copies of his own works, heavily annotated in his hand.

Advice for using the Online Collections can be found HERE.

An integrated tool, FSI (Flash-based Single Source Image) Viewer, has been included with the collections to enable users to zoom in to very small sections of the specimens to see close detail. For the Herbarium, the FSI Viewer also comes with a measuring tool. The buttons at the bottom right hand side of the FSI Viewer window are to use the zooming and measuring tools.

From a search results list it is possible to open more than 1 image window at a time so that side by side comparison can be made.

By clicking the "+" symbol in the menu at the bottom, you should be able to enlarge a selected area of the image up to nine times, and get a very detailed view. Please note that each "zoom" can take a while to load as it is processing a lot of data.

By clicking on the symbol with the four arrows, you can move the image by guiding your cursor (which will display as a hand on the image) over the image and using click and drag. You can move the detailed view as if working with a magnifying glass. Just make sure that you click back onto "+" or "-" if you would like to zoom in or out.

Please note that we only supply high-resolution digital copies of specimen images if they are for publication (fees may apply). You will be required to complete our Image Permissions Form. We would much appreciate the donation of copies of publications containing or concerning material in the Collections.

For more advice on obtaining images, please click HERE.


The Library, Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BF

Lynda Brooks, Librarian

Email: Lynda Brooks

Tel: +44 (0)20 7434 4479 EXT 24

Fax: +44 (0)20 7287 9364

Elaine Charwat , Deputy Librarian

Email: Elaine Charwat

Tel: +44 (0)20 7434 4479 EXT 23


Send an email to the Curators.


Dr Charlie Jarvis, Department of Botany, Natural History Museum

Zoology - General and Shells:

Ms Kathie Way, Department of Zoology, Natural History Museum

Zoology - Insects:

Dr Mike Fitton, Natural History Museum