Herbarium specimens for digitisation

Digitising the Collections

Kew’s scientific collections contain over 8.5 million items; we aim to make 80% of our collections digitally available by 2020.

Project information

Output Leader: Alan Paton

Funded by: Kew Foundation, British Council Newton Fund, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, H D H WILLS 1965 Charitable Trust 

For opportunities to fund this output and help us reach our target, please contact the Output Leader.


80% Of Collections Digitised by 2020

To increase access to the data held in our collections, we will use modern digitisation technologies, including high-throughput scanning of herbarium sheets and microscope slides, to digitise our extensive collections. We aim to achieve 80% digitisation by 2020, creating the foundation for a virtual herbarium and other online resources, and feeding into the Plants of the World Online Portal (POWOP). In addition to digitising 80% of specimens by 2020, we will also target parts of the collections for more in-depth data capture to address particular science questions. Such data can be used to support conservation assessments or to model future species distributions under different climate scenarios.

Digitising the UK and UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) collections will support the UK aspect of POWOP, making the information available to the public and a broad science and conservation audience. We will continue to develop the UKOTs virtual herbarium, which has already proven itself to be an indispensable planning tool for plant conservation. Capturing and making available collection data from our substantial UK and UKOTs fungal collections will be a priority, to provide fundamental support for conservation initiatives. We will also undertake crowdsourcing as a mechanism for capturing data from imaged specimens and to help connect our science with a broader audience.