Terms and conditions: Research visits to Kew's Collections

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (hereafter referred to as Kew) welcomes you to the Herbarium, Fungarium and Library, Art & Archives. We wish you an enjoyable and useful visit. As a Visitor, you will be required to observe the following regulations:

1. All visits to the Herbarium and Fungarium must be arranged in advance via Kew’s online registration forms. The Library has a public reading room, but you are advised to make an appointment to use the Archives facilities (archives@kew.org). 

Opening hours are 09:00 to 17:30 (Library 17:00) Monday to Thursday and to 17:00 on Friday, except public holidays and days designated by the Director of Science or Head of Collections. Please leave promptly at closing times. The Herbarium, Fungarium and Library are not open at weekends and visits will not be permitted at weekends.

2. Your visit will be guided by a designated member of our staff (‘staff member responsible’); please accept their help. Visitor safety is extremely important to us and we will need to know in advance if visitors have any impairments – visual, hearing or mobility, which may impact evacuating the building in an emergency.

3. Fire prevention: smoking and the use of naked flames of any kind in any part of the buildings is strictly prohibited. In the event of a fire or other emergency, or when the alarms sound continuously, follow the instructions from Kew staff and leave the building immediately by the marked emergency exits. Your attention is drawn to the Fire Action notices displayed throughout the building. The Emergency Assembly Point is in the rear car park. The telephone number for emergencies is 333.

4. Please observe Kew’s policies for security (including IT security) and for Health and Safety. Please read the Health and Safety notices on the notice boards. It is your responsibility to read and familiarise yourself with these documents.

5. Please guard your personal possessions; Kew does not take responsibility for them. No bags or coats may be taken into the Herbarium or Library. Lockers are available in the Reception for the Herbarium and Library. Small bags may be taken into the Fungarium, but please leave suitcases at the Jodrell Reception.

6. Please maintain appropriate standards of behaviour, with courtesy and consideration for others at all times.

7. Please report to Reception every time you come, show your Permission to Visit letter and wear your Visitor Pass so that it can be seen. During your visit, keep your Visitor Pass safely with you at all times; it must not be transferred to anyone else.

8. Do not bring your own visitors (family or friends) into the building without making prior arrangements with the staff member responsible. The Science buildings are not suitable for children, so please do not bring children into the Herbarium, Fungarium or Library.

9. All dried specimens (or other items at Kew’s discretion), which may carry pests, will be frozen before they can be brought into the building, even if they have previously been disinfested. There are restrictions regarding the movement of unfrozen material. Please obey notices.

10. No food or drink may be consumed in the building, except in the designated area. You may have a closed receptacle (e.g. bottle) of water at your allocated desk space.

11. Your own electrical equipment (including computers) may be used in the building but only with the permission of the staff member responsible.
12. Please make sure you read and understand the Conditions of Use section for consulting the Collections in the Herbarium, the Library and Archives and the Fungarium. You will be asked to complete a declaration of having done so.

13. You must treat Kew’s Collections with great care; nothing may be removed, added to, altered or re-arranged without permission from the staff member responsible. You must comply with all instructions recorded on the specimen sheets; for example, any prohibition on publishing location data.

14. Kew’s data and information systems must not be altered or compromised in any way and data may not be transferred to another medium or device without permission.

15. Please declare any potential conflict of interest between access to our Collections or to privileged information at Kew, and your private or institutional interests or those of others.

16. Kew complies with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). All visitors are expected to comply with those Conventions in their work.

17. Kew reserves the right to ask visitors to leave the premises immediately, without warning and without redress.

18. Intellectual Property

18(a). You acknowledge that you are permitted to use the intellectual property in the materials contained within Kew's Herbarium, Fungarium, Library, Art and Archives for non-commercial and private study purposes only. You acknowledge that Kew may permit you to use such materials for research, leading to a publication relating to the field of plant science or other scholarly area, but only with formal permission.

18(b). You acknowledge that you will appropriately acknowledge both Kew and any other appropriate body if you publish any book, article or image which was developed with use of the Kew collections. You will notify Kew of any intended publication of work developed with use of the Kew collections.  

18(c). You agree not to take any images of any items within the Kew collections without the prior permission of the staff member responsible and only after completing any forms required.

18(d). You hereby grant a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive licence to Kew to use any annotations made by you to the Kew collections for any and all purposes.  You agree to comply with the rules regarding making annotations to the collections as set out in the Conditions of Use document.

19. Kew is committed to protecting and respecting your personal information. We need to collect specific details through the visit registration process and whenever you give us such information, we will protect and use it in accordance with all applicable laws, including the Data Protection Act 1998 and General Data Protection Regulation.  We may use your personal information to keep you informed of future activities of the Herbarium and Library and for marketing and the research purposes of Kew. We will not give your personal information to third parties without your prior consent. For information about how we use personal data, please read Kew’s privacy policy.

20. If you obtain any personal or confidential information during your visit you must keep it confidential and not share it with anyone else.

NOTE: Long-term visitors (i.e. those anticipating a visit of three months or longer will be expected to sign an additional declaration).

Conditions of use

Please check footwear for mud and clothes for rainwater as both are harmful to our collections. Similarly, please avoid using a mobile phone or other potentially noisy equipment, so that other people are not disturbed. 

Herbarium and Fungarium Collections

  • In line with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s policy on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing, no specimens or parts of specimens may be removed from the collections without separate written permission (see also Destructive Sampling). Specimens must not be removed from the Herbarium or Fungarium even on a temporary basis.
  • Specimens need to be frozen before they are brought into the Herbarium or Fungarium for study. Any material submitted for deep freezing (see Regulation 9) will be ready for collection in not less than 72 hours from the time of placement in the freezer. We advise that specimens should be sent in advance, so they are ready on arrival.
  • Visitors are requested not to enter the Quadrangle Compactor Store without permission. This must be reconfirmed with your staff member responsible on a daily basis.
  • Please do not use the Herbarium or Fungarium collections until you have been introduced to your staff member responsible and/or other designated staff member. If it is your first visit, he/she will explain how the Kew system works and offer any necessary guidance on the correct handling of herbarium or fungarium specimens. Always treat the specimens as a priceless scientific and historic resource. Remember to keep the specimens face upwards. Do not treat a genus cover as a book and flip the specimens over so that they are face downwards. Do not leave unstable stacks of specimens on the tables and always cover specimens when not working with them. 
  • As far as possible, all specimens studied should be annotated. Please draw annotated material to the attention of your staff member responsible. Determinavit or Confirmavit slips, showing determination, signature and date, either printed or legibly written in permanent ink, should be attached to the sheet (preferably as near to the bottom right as possible) concerned with the glue provided. Please do not stick determination labels of the ‘self-adhesive type’ (even if alleged to be of archival quality) to herbarium sheets. When specimens of more than one taxon or collection are mounted on one sheet, separate slips should be provided for each. Except to distinguish the various elements of such mixtures, no marks should be made on the sheets themselves. Existing labels, other determinations, notes, etc. must not in any circumstances be removed, covered or in any way defaced. We provide archivally approved stationery for use on herbarium specimens. Please do not use ordinary office stationery.
  • If you notice a previously unrecognised type specimen, or if you re-determine a specimen, please draw it to the attention of your staff member responsible (or another designated staff member). Before removing any such specimens from a species cover check that the country of collection is clearly indicated on the specimen. Once removed from the context of the Herbarium, historical (or classical) specimens can be difficult to re-incorporate. Please do not attempt to re-arrange the collections without first consulting your member of staff responsible (or another designated staff member). 

Health & Safety. It should be noted that Kew specimens might, at some time, have been chemically treated to deter insect infestation. Specimens should be handled with appropriate care. Gloves are available on request.

Loans. Please ask for guidance before putting aside any specimens that you wish to have sent on loan (see Policy for the Loan of Herbarium Specimens at https://www.kew.org/science/engage/accessing-our-science/access-our-collections), which also applied to the Fungarium. On return to your institution, visitors are asked to arrange for their Herbarium Director/Curator/Collections Manager to send an official loan request to Dr Alan Paton (Head of Kew Science Collections) to say that you and your institution are willing to take responsibility for the loan and that the material will be maintained in good order. Once the request is received, we will proceed to process the loan you have selected. 

Ancillary collections. Please first ask your staff member responsible (or other designated staff member) if you wish to consult the carpological or spirit collections.

Dissection. The dissection of type material is normally discouraged. However, with permission, the dissection of reasonable portions of non-type specimens is permitted, providing the material is adequate. All dissected portions must be placed in a paper capsule and attached to the herbarium sheet concerned using the archival glue provided (please speak to your contact curator before doing so). Microscope slides or other preparations made from material in the collections remain the property of RBG, Kew and must not be taken away. 

Microscopes for visitors’ use can be supplied upon request.

Destructive sampling. The removal of parts of specimens for studies in palynology, anatomy, phytochemistry, etc. (destructive sampling), is not allowed without the specific, prior permission of the Head of Collections (see Requests for portions of specimens from the Kew Herbarium). Removal of material for DNA extraction is not permitted but aliquots of DNA extracts may be available from the Jodrell Laboratory provided the specimen is suitable. A Material Supply Agreement (MSA) is now required for all samples removed from the Kew Herbarium. Please ask your staff member responsible (or other designated staff member) for further information.

Photography. Visitors wishing to take photographs of specimens must obtain permission to do so, where high quality images are no already available form Kew’s digitization of collections. A lighting stand is available on request. Images of specimens may be used for research. However, permission must be obtained from the Board of the Trustees of RBG Kew to use such images for publication, or in any other way.

Other Collections. A prior and separate appointment is currently needed to consult the Palynological or Economic Botany Collections.

Library, Art and Archives

Please make sure that you have signed the declaration on the Visitor’s Card agreeing to abide by the conditions listed here.  A copy of the Regulation for visitors to the Herbarium and Library is printed on the portion of the Visitor’s Card retained by you and can be consulted as necessary. 

Where possible, please do not bring coats or bags into Library, Art & Archives areas as there are no secure places in which to deposit them. Please check footwear for mud and clothes for rainwater as both are harmful to our collections. Similarly, please avoid bringing a mobile phone or other potentially noisy equipment, so that other people are not disturbed.

None of the following are permitted: fountain pens, bottles of ink, paints, hand-held electronic scanners, camera flashlights, food and drink. You may use a laptop computer and digital camera (but without flash).  

Library, Art & Archives materials are more fragile than they seem, and must be handled with great care. Please handle items gently, turn pages carefully (never use a licked finger); use foam book supports (and wear protective gloves when asked to by Library staff). Books are 3-dimensional structures which can break if forced open or forcibly flattened. 

  • Do not write on, mark, alter or re-arrange any items in the Library, Art & Archives collections without permission from Library staff.
  • Only use pencils in the Library – these can be borrowed from the enquiry desk.
  • Do not take notes using notepads or paper placed on top of Library, Art & Archives items.  Tracing is not permitted.
  • To protect them from light, close books or cover artworks when you have finished with them.
  • If you require photocopying, please ask at the Library enquiry desk.  Requests may be refused if copying the item might damage it or would contravene Copyright legislation.  


Enquiries: guidance on the scope and arrangement of the collections and services is available from the enquiry desk in the centre of the Main Library (first floor, Wing D). The enquiry desk is staffed 09:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday only.

Research: an appointment must be made to see Art and Archives material. Visitors must make an appointment to consult Library material. Items on open shelves may be consulted anywhere within the Main Library. Archives, Pre-Linnean collections and other special items must be consulted at the library enquiry desk. Items in the Art collection must be consulted at the enquiry desk (or as directed by the specialist illustrations staff).

Copying: visitors may take digital photographs (without flash), subject to various conditions declared on a form which they must sign. If this is for commercial use, a fee will be charged. We will provide photocopies from Library items and from Archives items held on microfilm (original Archive items cannot be photocopied); a charge may be made for this service. We can arrange to have a photograph made of any item in the collections, for both private and commercial use: a charge is made for this service. Scanning of items is not permitted.

Loans: items in Art and Archives collections cannot be borrowed (except, by arrangement, for exhibition purposes). Visitors for more than one week may borrow Library items, by arrangement with Library staff. In either case, items should not be taken away from the Kew site except for use at Wakehurst.

Loans from external libraries: we are unable to offer this to visitors.

Electronic resources: a catalogue of Library, Art & Archives collections is available via the internet. Access to electronic journals and certain external databases is not available to short term visitors. There is no internet access in the Main Library except to webpages and databases hosted by Kew.

Guidance is available to occasional visitors. Please ask at the library enquiry desk. Our specialist Archives staff offer occasional talks on aspects of the history of RBG, Kew, accompanied by original records: please ask at the library enquiry desk.

Preservation advice: this is available for both paper-based and works on other media. Please contact the Senior Conservator.

Records management: advice is available on record-keeping practice. Please contact the Archivist.


All visiting users of the collections must read and understand the Regulations for Visitors to the Herbarium, Library, Art & Archives and Fungarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (including the Health and Safety, Fire Regulations, and Security Regulations), as well as the Conditions of Use and must undertake to observe them throughout their visit. You will be required to confirm that you have read and understood these conditions.