11 December 2023

Ambitious programme to transform our science

Our vast collection of dried plant specimens has been recommended for relocation to Thames Valley Science Park.

Person rests their hands on a dried herbarium specimen

Kew’s critical work to address the biodiversity and climate crises requires world-class science facilities, built to contemporary standards. 

Modernising our laboratories and workspaces; providing for the long-term care and growth of the collections; and creating collaborative environments for closer interaction with our partners are a priority for the organisation in delivering Our manifesto for change.   

As part of the vision to transform our research and collections infrastructure, Kew’s Board of Trustees decided in 2021 that moving our herbarium off site was required to enable us to care for and grow these collections into the next century. 

Thames Valley Science Park (TVSP) in Reading was identified as the preferred site earlier this year, subject to technical due diligence which has now been satisfactorily completed.  

Our Trustees have confirmed their recommendation to relocate Kew’s herbarium collection to TVSP and to progress to the next phase of design and planning for a new facility. Construction of a new herbarium is conditional upon resolving several outstanding issues and securing funding.  

This marks the start of an exciting new chapter for Kew; we strongly believe it will further our critical conservation work, tackling the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. 

It will also offer the unique opportunity to create a world-leading collections research hub at TVSP with the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the University of Reading, which will have new facilities adjacent at the site.

Scientists in the field collecting dried plant specimens
Collecting herbarium specimens in the Paramo © RBG Kew

Next steps

Design and planning for the new herbarium is in progress, with architects and engineers appointed to work in consultation with the taxonomists and curators who research and care for the collections. 

Alongside this, we are exploring options for the future use of the historic buildings at Kew, and we are committed to working closely with UNESCO through the project development process to preserve the status of the Kew Gardens site.  

Three researchers record photographs and take notes about a plant before collection
Collecting herbarium specimens in Uganda © Sophie Richards, RBG Kew

Looking ahead

A new, purpose-built facility at TVSP will allow us to care for and curate our irreplaceable herbarium collections well into the next century; provide capacity for their growth; and increase their use in botanical research and conservation. 

It will be a centre for excellence in both taxonomic science and training, a resource for researchers around the world, able to accommodate staff, students and visitors .   

If we are successful in securing funding for the new herbarium, it – and the wider programme to transform our science facilities across all sites – will represent the single largest investment at Kew in our 264-year history.   

We have already begun this journey as we digitise our ~8.5M plant and fungal specimens to ensure global and free access, and it will culminate with redevelopment of the Kew site. 

The proposed 'Science Quarter' will provide us with state-of-the-art research, education, and collaboration facilities and will also enable the public to engage with our collections and research to an extent they have not been able to before.  

View over someone's shoulder as they digitise herbarium specimens
Digitising herbarium plant specimens © RBG Kew

Whilst we are still at the very early stages of this complex and multi-faceted project, we look forward to the extraordinary opportunity on our horizon: to create a world-leading herbarium with Kew expertise and collaboration at its heart.  

Person's hands are seen resting on a herbarium specimen

Want to find out more about our new Herbarium project?

Here's everything you need to know about the relocation of Kew's Herbarium.