Smile for the camera: A million plants line up to get their photo taken
As part of the relocation, the herbarium underwent the mammoth task of digitising its collection. One of the world’s most renowned digitisation companies, Picturae, has been meticulously taking high-definition images of each specimen as part of a global movement to prepare plant data for the digital age.
“We’ve been pulling out these amazing things because there are 70,000 boxes and no one has ever gone through them all at once, so we’ve found specimens we didn’t even know we had,” Mr Badiou said.
“The collection holds more than one million individual specimens, from tiny orchids stored in alcohol to palm leaves so big that they hang in a cupboard.”
Dr McPherson said with the herbarium currently closed to loans because of the move, the images were already proving a valuable resource.
“We’re getting lots of inquiries from researchers around the world to use the images that have already been uploaded, and they’re of such high quality that they don’t always need the actual specimens,” she said.
The images are being made available through the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Open Data Sponsorship Program
and will all end up on the Atlas of Living Australia for the public to freely use.
Chief Executive of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust and the Australian Institute of Botanical Science, Denise Ora, said the historic digitisation project was taking the herbarium into the digital age, allowing more people around the world to access information and data to advance research, education and conservation.
“We’re taking a snapshot of these specimens that will last forever in a truly unique project of international significance that raises the profile of the Australian Institute of Botanical Science and puts us on the world stage,” Ms Ora said.
“This historic, Australian-first digitisation project will ensure generations to come can delve into its collections of specimens collected from all over the world, from 250 years ago to today.
“This has been an incredible project, pulled off by teams across four continents, and a fantastic achievement for Australian science, conservation and research.”
Many people wouldn’t realise that the information on the label that goes with the specimen can be just as important as the specimen itself. Alembo is a specialised transcription company based in Suriname which has been working with the team to transcribe labels that have never been databased before, creating new digital records for a significant proportion of the collection.
With the plant specimen imaging nearing completion, the team now has its sights set on the herbarium’s prized botanical illustration collection.
This comprises a mix of modern and historic illustrations, including the world’s largest collection of Margaret Flockton originals.
Margaret Flockton was a giant in the field of Australian botanical illustration and produced an impressive body of work from 1901 to 1927 when the director of the herbarium was J.H. Maiden.
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