Survey of Flowering Plants Stored in Fluid Preservatives Across European Herbaria

Written by Ranee Prakash, Senior Curator (Flowering Plants), Algae, Fungi and Plants Division, Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London.

A survey of flowering plant material stored in various fluid preservatives across several European herbaria/institutions was carried out a few years ago. The feedback received from the survey is shared and shows that the majority of the herbaria use 70% IMS (industrial methylated spirit) to store their collections.

Introduction

The seed plant collections (stored in various liquids such as formalin, some have unknown liquids, and some mention poison) form a relatively small yet significant part of the botanical holdings at NHM (Natural History Museum). They include some important material dating back to the mid 1800’s and type collections such as the world’s largest flower Rafflesia arnoldii collected by Robert Brown. However, these wet collections have remained a somewhat underused asset and are in dire need of curatorial attention.

In continuation to this aim, a survey of flowering plants stored in spirit collections across various institutions in Europe was carried out in 2012 so as to assess what preservatives other institutions were using and what would be the best method to store the collections at NHM for posterity. The objective of this survey was to gather information on:

  • How big the spirit collection is
  • How the collection is used
  • Which liquid preservatives the flowering plant collections are stored in

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NatSCA Digital Digest

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Your weekly round-up of news and events happening in the wonderful world of natural sciences!

 

Jobs

Unusually, there are a few natural science jobs out there in the UK at the moment:

Curatorial Assistant (Human Remains and Repatriation) – Natural History Museum. Applications close 29th March.

Curator/Lecturer in Vertebrate Palaeontology – Cambridge University. Applications close 3rd April.

Several interesting posts at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, including an Assistant Curator (applications close 7th April).

And, just in case you haven’t already seen it:

Collections Manager (Life Collections) – Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Applications close 10th April.

Events

Simon Moore’s renowned fluid preservation course will next run on 1st – 4th June at the Horniman Museum & Gardens. The four-day course costs £300 (NatSCA members can apply for a bursary). See here for details and booking.

A fluid-preserved specimen in a jar is held up to the camera. Image: Russell Dornan

Learn the skills to care for fluid-preserved specimens (Image: Russell Dornan)

The Society for the History of Natural History (SHNH) has put out a call for speakers for their annual conference, to be held at Wakefield Museum on 31st July – 1st August.

The Museum Ethnographers Group (MEG) 2015 conference is entitled Nature and Culture in Museums, and will explore the relationship between natural science and ethnography. It takes place at the Powell-Cotton Museum on 20th – 21st April, and booking is open now!

In the Media

Today is Taxonomist Appreciation Day, a holiday devised by Dr Terry McGlynn, of California State University Dominguez Hills, to highlight the decline in taxonomic skills and the importance of museum collections.

These taxonomists definitely deserve some appreciation: A census of all known marine life by WoRMS (the World Register of Marine Species) has added many new species and removed 190,400 duplicates!

Darwin’s ‘strangest animals ever discovered’ finally find their place in the tree of life.

 

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