Palaeontology collections

The palaeontology and biostratigraphy collections are split between Keyworth and Edinburgh, with the former holding most of the English and Welsh material, and the latter the majority of the Scottish material. Most of the type, figured and cited material is stored centrally at Keyworth.

  • Type & Stratigraphic Collection. All type, figured and cited macrofossils, plus other museum quality material selected for its stratigraphical importance. There are over 200 000 specimens in Keyworth and about 5000 in Edinburgh. They are a useful starting point for many palaeontological studies.
  • Survey Collection. Material collected by Survey officers for biostratigraphic study. There are about 1 250 000 specimens in Keyworth and 400 000 in Edinburgh.
  • Micropalaeontology Collection. Includes type, figured and cited material. There are about 240 000 slides in Keyworth and 6450 in Edinburgh.
  • Donated collections, including the important John Smith Collection in Edinburgh.
  • Catalogue of the BGS 'Purbeck' and 'Wealden' ostracod collection
    Specimens are available for study at either Keyworth or Edinburgh and a loan system is available to accredited scientists.
  • Murchison's Silurian Fossils
    A supplement to the 1989 catalogue of fossils illustrated in The Silurian System.

Keyworth Biostratigraphy Museum

The Biostratigraphy Museum contains approximately 250 000 selected fossil specimens, including much type, figured and cited material. Initial enquiries should be made to the Collections Manager or the Chief Curator.

Fossil specimen storage
Wild microscope

Fossils in display cabinets on the walls
Copying stand
Microfossil collection storage

Biostratigraphy Collection | The Lyell Centre

Fern fossil The Survey Collection is stored in mobile racks with trays ordered by locality and registration number

The Edinburgh Biostratigraphy Collection is housed in an environmentally monitored fossil store that is close to a fully equipped palaeontology laboratory.

The biostratigraphical material is almost exclusively derived from exposures and boreholes in Scotland. It comprises three main collections:

  • Survey Collection of about 430 000 registered specimens (including 30 000 specimens donated by the late John Smith)
  • Type and Stratigraphical Collection of about 16 000 registered specimens (about 11 000 of which now reside at Keyworth)
  • Palaeontological Slides Collection of about 6500 registered micropalaeontological slides and fossil thin sections.

There are several digital datasets associated with the Murchison House Biostratigraphical Collection. For a full introduction and summary description go to the Palaeontology pages of their BGS Data Catalogue.

The Survey Collection, which has been in existence since 1869, is stored in mobile racks with trays ordered by locality and registration number.

The Type and Stratigraphical Collection, which is very largely derived from the Survey Collection and comprises taxonomic types and generally well-preserved comparative material, is stored chronostratigraphically and taxonomically in six cabinets in a Museum area within the Fossil Store.

The Palaeontological Slides Collection, which includes donations from eminent workers such as Garwood, Lee, Clough and Smith, is stored in a wooden cabinet in the museum area, the trays being ordered by registration number.

Whilst the collections were developed primarily for BGS use, application for a loan may be requested by anyone. The materials can be studied in the Palaeontology Laboratory where bench space, a binocular microscope, scientific literature and records, and a conservation facility are available.

Digital fossil model viewed as an anaglyph JISC funded project: GB/3D type fossils online

The GB/3D type fossils online project aims to develop a single database of the type specimens held in British collections of macrofossil species and subspecies found in the UK; including a selection of 3D digital models.


Fossilised fish - photo

Keyworth collections:

Paul Shepherd
E-mail: Paul Shepherd
Telephone: 0115 936 3102

Edinburgh collections:

Michael Togher
E-mail: Michael Togher
Telephone: 0131 650 0345