Natural History

Click on the images below to find out more about objects in our natural history collection.


The museum has collected natural history objects since 1832. In the early days of the museum, the Great Hall was filled with animals, including an elephant which featured in the Great Exhibition of 1851. Today, our focus has turned away from collecting specimens to conservation, and understanding plants and animals in their natural habitats.

The natural history collection features a large number of preserved animals, such as mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, invertebrates and molluscs. These include a small collection of mainly British mammals, featuring our famous Wallace the Lion; historic specimens of British and European birds and birds’ eggs; and insects from Britain, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Our collection of preserved plants is of considerable regional importance. The herbarium holds over 14,000 specimens of dried ferns, mosses, fungi, lichen, algae and flowering plants, many of which were collected in the nineteenth century by botanists around Essex such as George Stacey Gibson and Joshua Clarke.

Objects from our natural history collection are on display in the Natural History gallery. Many more objects are kept in storage and can be viewed by appointment.

During the Covid-19 situation we have temporarily removed the gallery hand-lists.  If you have a pre-booked visit of the Museum booked in  when the museum re-opens, here are PDF copies of the hand-lists that you can download and view on a smart device when you visit, in order to find out more about the contents of the display cases: