Over the past 60 years a great number of very large datasets have been generated from the experimental exposure of animals to external radiation and internal contamination. This accumulation of 'big data' has been matched by increasingly large epidemiological studies from accidental and occupational radiation exposure, and from plants, humans and other animals affected by environmental contamination. We review the creation, sustainability and reuse of this legacy data, and discuss the importance of Open data and biomaterial archives for contemporary radiobiological sciences, radioecology and epidemiology. We find evidence for the ongoing utility of legacy datasets and biological materials, but that the availability of these resources depends on uncoordinated, often institutional, initiatives to curate and archive them. The importance of open data from contemporary experiments and studies is also very clear, and yet there are few stable platforms for their preservation, sharing, and reuse. We discuss the development of the ERA and STORE data sharing platforms for the scientific community, and their contribution to FAIR sharing of data. The contribution of funding agency and journal policies to the support of data sharing is critical for the maximum utilisation and reproducibility of publicly funded research, but this needs to be matched by training in data management and cultural changes in the attitudes of investigators to ensure the sustainability of the data and biomaterial commons.