Graphical version

Natural History Museum



Reference code(s): GB 0060 DF PAL

Held at: Natural History Museum


Date(s): 1813-1986

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 24 series

Name of creator(s): Department of Palaeontology | Natural History Museum


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Department of Palaeontology has its origins in the Department of Natural and Artificial Productions which was set up at the foundation of the British Museum in 1756. In 1806 it was renamed the Department of Natural History and Modern Curiosities and was under the keepership of George Shaw (1751-1813) and later Carl Dietrich Eberhard Konig (1774-1851). In 1837 the Department was divided into three branches, of which Mineralogy and Geology was one, and in 1856 the branch became a Department in its own right, almost immediately being divided into the two departments of Geology and Mineralogy. The first Keeper of Geology was George Robert Waterhouse (1810-1888), an entomologist, who had joined the Museum in 1843 from the Zoological Society. He was succeeded in 1880 by Henry Woodward (1832-1921), who thus had the task of supervising the move from Bloomsbury to South Kensington. By the time Woodward retired in 1901 the Department had a staff of 15.

Through the 1920s and 1930s the collections were divided into 15 units, each presided over by an Assistant Keeper or an Unofficial Worker. Subdivision of the Department into sections developed during this period, and was firmly established when the Museum got back to normal after the Second World War. An Anthropology Section, which spanned the departments of Geology and Zoology was set up in 1954. It was given the status of a Sub-Department in 1959, and was made part of Palaeontology the following year.

In 1956 the title of the Department was changed from Geology to Palaeontology. By 1956 the Department was responsible for one of the largest and most important collections of palaeontological material in the world, and was an international centre for research in both stratigraphic and taxonomic palaeontology. Research work was supported by a rich departmental library. Staff numbered 63.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Department of Palaeontology comprising: DF100 Palaeontology Departmental Correspondence; DF101 Registers of Palaeontology Departmental Correspondence; DF102 Palaeontology Departmental Finance and Accounts; DF103 Palaeontology Reports to Trustees and other Official Documents; DF104 Palaeontology Reports of Progress, Monthly and Annual; DF105 Palaeontology Acquisition, Loan and Exchange Correspondence and Papers; DF106 Staff Files and Diaries; DF107 Keeper of Palaeontology's subject files; DF108 Palaeontology Departmental visitors books; DF109 Publications correspondence and artwork; DF110 Parcel books; DF116 Correspondence and papers on Piltdown Man; DF117 Palaeontology loan registers; DF120 Early members of staff, correspondence and papers; DF121 Fossil Reptilia Section: correspondence and papers; DF122 Fossil Mollusca Section: correspondence and papers; DF123 Fossil Echinodermata Section: correspondence and papers; DF124 Fossil Brachiopoda Section: correspondence and papers; DF125 Fossil and Recent Protozoa Section: correspondence and papers; DF140 Anthropology Sub-Department correspondence; DF141 Anthropology Sub-Department subject files; DF142 Anthropology Sub-Department visitors books; DF160 Palaeontology Library accessions; DF161 Palaeontology Librarian's correspondence.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

As outlined in the Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

By appointment with the Archivist, by email to or by post to the Museum Archivist, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD.

Conditions governing reproduction:

At the Archivist's discretion. Photocopying service available. Digital photography (without flash) permitted for research purposes on completion of a photography permit form.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue



Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Transferred from the Department of Palaeontology.


Related material:

Most of the records from 1756-c1850 remain in the archives of the British Museum.


Archivist's note: Entry copied from the Natural History Museum online catalogue by Sarah Drewery.
References: Stearn, W T, 1981. The Natural History Museum at South Kensington. Heinemann. Chapter 14.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Sep 2008

Fossils | Palaeontology
Museum collections | Museum facilities
Protozoa | Organisms

Personal names

Corporate names
Natural History Museum