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The World Museum: Herbarium and Botany Collection

As part of an art-science interaction workshop, I booked myself a research visit to the World Museum in Liverpool to get some hands on experience making Herbarium sheets and to look specifically at the Botany Collection. A herbarium can be defined as "a collection of preserved plants stored, catalogued, and arranged systematically for study by professionals and amateurs from many walks of life" (What is a herbarium, 2023). Herbarium collections are a vital part of science as they provide real samples of plant specimens that can be used for DNA or to validate scientific observations to help with research. Likewise the role of a Herbarium is key within the green sector and helps facilitate the work of ecologists, scientists, geographers and those working in environmental sciences and sustainability.



Image 01: Liverpool World Museum (Seeds Plants, 2023).


Here are the steps to create a museum standard herbarium sheet


Step 01 obtain equipment:

You will need archival materials such as acid-free paper, fragment folders, neutral PH glue, sponge polyester to absorb excess glue and herbarium tape to properly preserve and store plant specimens.


Step 02 collect specimens:

Gather plant specimens from your local area, paying attention to details such as location, date, and habitat.


Step 03 press and dry the specimens:

Once you have collected your specimens place the plants between sheets of blotting paper or news paper and press them until they are dry. You could use heavy books or weights on top to help with the pressing process. It is advised to keep a daily look at the specimens to check they are pressing well, and if needed it is fine to change the paper. Please note: This may take several days, depending on the plant species, temperature and humidity.


Step 04 mount the specimens:

Once the specimens are dry, mount them onto acid-free paper using a neutral PH glue and / or tape. It is essential that the specimens are labelled accurately. This Includes labelling the specimens with information including the plant's scientific name, plants family, the collector's name, location with grid reference and date of collection. This is an important part of archiving the plant specimens so it is essential that all of this information is correct.


Step 05 store the specimens safely:

It is best to store specimens in archival folders and to be kept in a dark cool place to help protect them from light, moisture, and pests. It is advised to keep a check on specimens every so often to ensure they are keeping well protected and for example there is no mould growth on the specimens.



Image 02: Images taken myself on the day of the workshop.


This was a fascinating workshop, and with special thanks to Wendy Atkinson at The World Museum, for providing me with such a fun and interactive session learning the role of botany curators, scientists and researchers that work in the Herbarium.


References

Botany collection (2023) National Museums Liverpool. Available at: https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/collections/natural-history/botany (Accessed: April 27, 2023).

What is a herbarium? (2023) HerbWeb - What is a Herbarium. Available at: https://apps.kew.org/herbcat/gotoWhatIsHerbarium.do (Accessed: April 27, 2023).

Seed plants (2023) National Museums Liverpool. Available at: https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/collections/botany/seed-plants (Accessed: April 27, 2023).

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