Collections department

Kew’s scientific collections contain over 8.5 million items, representing over 95% of known flowering plant genera and approximately 66% of the known genera of fungi.

Dried Rhododendron specimen

Head of department: Dr Alan Paton 
Assistant head: Dr John B Dickie  

The strength and breadth of our collections provide an unparalleled opportunity to understand plant and fungal diversity and to carry out research to support our scientific vision. Our collections and expertise are at the heart of the science carried out both here and in institutions across the globe. Thus, we are developing the collections to support the science foci of this strategy, while also maintaining the global representation of plant and fungal diversity necessary to document large-scale patterns of diversity and change, and to respond to future challenges. 

Department priorities 

  • Ensuring appropriate representation of the global breadth of vascular plant and fungal diversity to support our science. 
  • Enhancing those parts of the collections deemed to represent priority taxa, areas and/or themes; in particular focusing on those that can be defined as agenda-setting and globally relevant in the framework of Kew's Science Strategy. 
  • Further developing best practice in collection management. 
  • Digitising the collections to increase access to them and increase their use. This includes both large-scale digitisation and dissemination of in-depth data derived from collections to answer specific science questions. 
  • Integrating data and information about, and derived from, individual collections, both within Kew and with complementary external information resources, for example, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. 

Department teams

Volunteer checking computer

Digital Collections

Making our Herbarium and Fungarium collections digitally accessible and managing our collections databases. 

Digital Collections
Economic Botany Collection jars

Economic Botany Collection

Research, curation and management of our ethnographic and wood collections. Our collection comprises 100,000 plant raw materials and products.

Economic Botany Collection
Microscope slides

Lab-based Collections

The management and curation of our DNA and Tissue Bank, and Microscope Slide Collection. Developing these collections to support research and access.  

Lab-based Collections
Opening a drawer in the Fungarium

Preserved Collections

Managing the flow of specimens in and out of the Herbarium and curating the Spirit and Fungarium collections. Ensuring compliance with legislation. 

Preserved Collections

Seed Collection

Managing and curating the collections of the Millennium Seed Bank; and research into seed storage, longevity and germination. 

Seed Collection