Leading Scottish collection of British flowering plant specimens made available online

Leading Scottish collection of British flowering plant specimens made available online

An extensive catalogue of British flowering plant specimens offering an insight into environmental changes and species distribution over a 200 year period has been made available online.

Project assistants at the University of Aberdeen have just finished cataloguing all sheets of British flowering plant specimens in the University’s Herbarium and more than 39,000 catalogue records for this collection can now be seen online at www.abdn.ac.uk/museums.   

These records significantly increase the accessibility of this important collection which contains types and specimens that can help researchers investigate environmental change, extinction and the history of science.

The University’s Herbarium is a ‘Recognised Collection of National Significance to Scotland’ and the herbarium is one of just two major herbaria in Scotland; the other being the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RGBE).  As the RBGE’s database does not currently contain records for Scotland and Britain, the recent cataloguing work at the University of Aberdeen has made an important step forward on a national scale. 

The project has been brought to fruition through the aid of the Museums Galleries Scotland Recognition Fund, which supported the creation of the first 11,000 records for British flowering plants as part of a ‘Re-uniting the Parts’ project last year and has now funded the creation of an additional 28,000 records. 

The online database for the University’s historic collections now contains a wide variety of information about the British flowering plants in the Herbarium; including family and species names, names of collectors and collection locality information. 

 Curator Shona Elliott, from the University of Aberdeen, said: “We only had information about the Herbarium plants on their individual specimen sheets prior to the start of these Recognition projectsso we’ve taken a big step forward getting so many records online.  Access has been significantly increased to a collection that was previously all but invisible to researchers other than specialist taxonomists.”

Mike Taylor, Manager of the Recognition Scheme at Museums Galleries Scotland, said:

“Scotland has 37 Recognised Collections open to visitors across the country. These collections are varied and the vast array of objects they contain reflect centuries of effort to gather, preserve and educate. They all have an important story to tell us about the past, present and future of the nation. The funds we make available to them allows them to care for their collections and find new and exciting ways to tell us these stories.We are delighted to see the progress being made by the University of Aberdeen in making their remarkable Herbarium collection available to a worldwide audience.”

The members of staff involved in the project were Claudia Cabarcas-Thomas, Leilani Caithness and Nicola Dixon (project assistants), Neil Curtis - Head of Museums, Dr. Jennifer Downes – Curator (Exhibitions and Science) and Shona Elliott – Curator (Documentation and Fine Art). 

Project Assistants are now starting work on the next Recognition-funded project which will continue the development of on-line access to the University’s Herbarium and also enhance the accessibility of the University’s Zoology Museum collection.  Amongst the specimens to be catalogued are polar specimens from the two collections, British bryophytes and lichens and approximately 40,000 insects.  Records for all these specimens will be put online near the end of this year.