The Marine Biological Association

Promoting marine scientific excellence and representing the marine biological community since 1884

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Archives & Historical Collections

The MBA Historical Collections bring together important documents and items relating to the history of marine biology in Britain since the MBA was founded in 1884. The MBA Historical Collections comprise the MBA Archive Collection, which holds unique documents relating to the early history of the MBA and the marine biological sciences in general, the MBA Object Collection, which contains scientific instruments, including some invented at the MBA, the MBA Herbarium of marine algae which goes back to the mid-nineteenth century, and the NMBL Special Collections, which are personal research libraries of eminent scientists.

Within the MBA Archive Collection, the Institutional Papers holds papers detailing the history and development of the MBA, its laboratory and building, its research vessels and the aquarium, the Personal Papers of MBA scientists include scientific papers, letters, notebooks, photographs, glass negatives, slides and illustrations. The collection documents the history of marine sciences in Britain and the diversity of the collection has shown itself to be of interest to researchers from many academic disciplines as well as to members of the public. The MBA Archive Collection is linked to other NMBL resources, such as Historical Literature and the Special Collections.

The Catalogue of the MBA Archive Collection is available online here:

The MBA Object Collection consists of important scientific instruments such as one of only five extant Levin-Wyman ergometers (invented at the MBA), microscopes, ammeters, specimen samplers and reversing thermometers. This collection contains some 100 objects.

A partial list of the objects is available here:

The MBA Herbarium is a collection of preserved specimens of algae collated since the mid-nineteenth century. It is a world-class resource of historical and scientific importance. It also contains lichens and copies of rare phycological volumes.

More information and resources about the MBA Herbarium are available here:

The NMBL Special Collections are the personal research libraries of six eminent scientists associated with the MBA. Their books and reprints they include some rare 19th century publications and reflect the research and personal interests of the original owners.

More information about the Special Collections is available here:

Together, these collections constitute an invaluable and unique resource, holding unique documents.

To go to the MBA Historical Collections website, please click here: