The world’s natural history collections contain at least 2 billion specimens of which an estimated 55 % reside in Europe. Enabling researchers to access these collections is vital. The creation of an integrated European infrastructure for natural history collections is underway. EU-funded SYNTHESYS PLUS is a pan-European natural history collection infrastructure project, and the fourth iteration of the SYNTHESYS programme. Its researchers are developing methods for collections digitalisation, digitisation workflows and new forms of collections access, laying the foundations for the Distributed System of Scientific Collections (DiSSCo), a massive scientific infrastructure project. DiSSCo represents 120 European museums from 21 countries who are positioning their collections at the centre of data-driven scientific excellence and innovation.