Stories from Pressed Plant Books in the Botany Collections

Written by Katherine Slade, Curator: Botany (Lower Plants), Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (AC-NMW)

This article was first published as a blog for AC-NMW, 17 May 2019.

Within Amgueddfa Cymru’s botany collections are books of dried plant specimens created by scientists and enthusiasts. Each specimen has been carefully dried and pressed, before being added to the books, sometimes with handwritten or printed notes alongside. The books are of enormous importance both in terms of modern scientific research into climate change and biodiversity, and as a way to see first hand the history of botanical exploration.

You can now look through a catalogue of the 36 books that contain non-flowering plants, fungi, lichens and seaweeds. You can read about a few of the stories surrounding these books below. For more detailed information about each book, please visit the website.

These books show the changes in how we collect, classify and name plants over two centuries from 1800 to present day. An old volume which probably dates from the 19th century entitled “New Zealand Mosses”, contains more than just mosses. Lichens, algae and even some pressed hydrozoans (tiny marine animals) have been included by the unknown collector who chose to group these superficially similar ‘moss-like’ specimens together. This donation entered the Museum’s collections after its Royal Charter was received and before work had begun on the present Cathays Park building.

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Meet the Committee – Jennifer Gallichan

What is your role on the NatSCA committee?

I am new to the NatSCA committee so am just starting to feel my way and find what my role might be as an Ordinary Member. I have considered joining the committee for many years, so I am really excited to finally be a part of it and just looking forward to getting involved, helping out and learning as much as I can.

Job title and institution

Curator: Mollusca & Vertebrates at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Cardiff

Twitter Username

@jennifergallich

Tell us about your day job

I have been at National Museum Cardiff for 17 years and for the large part of this time my role has been to work as part of the team curating the mollusc collections. We have one of the largest collections of molluscs in the UK, and it is taxonomically and historically significant. In recent years however, I have also taken on the role of facilitating access to the Vertebrate Collections. As you can imagine, this has been a significant learning curve and I am still in the process of developing in this role. As with many curators, a large part of my job is making collections accessible to everyone, be it through enquiries, loans, collection tours, open days, workshops, talks, visits and everything else. My job also includes curation – adding collections to our databases, sorting labels, etc, but with so many things to cover, I don’t get as much opportunity to do this as I would like. In recent years I have been involved with collections-based research, locating and investigating Type specimens in both our own collections and those in other institutions.

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NatSCA Digital Digest

Greater one horned rhino (C) E-L Nicholls

Greater one horned rhino (C) E-L Nicholls

Jobs and Traineeships

Post Doctoral Research Assistant- Origin of Land Plants, at the Natural History Museum. Applications for this externally funded two year project close on 7th December 2015.

Education Assistant; Bookings Administrator and Family Programming Officer, at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. The position is for 3 years and deadline for applications is 12pm on 16th December.

Events and Exhibitions

Call for papers for the April 2016 conference Objectively Speaking at the British Museum. The conference is set to explore four main themes:

  1. How can museums connect collections with classroom and academic teaching?
  2. How can objects facilitate creative teaching practice?
  3. What is the impact and opportunity of digital technology for object based teaching?

The deadline for proposals is 12pm on 15th January 2016.

A day conference on 11th December called Conservation Matters in Wales – ‘Conservators in Action’ is taking place at the National Museum Wales, in Cardiff. It will include presentations, short tours, and drinks in the pub afterwards (optional!)

Around the Web

Got literary inspiration to find or time to kill? Check out 100 Best Museum and Curator Blogs.

Rachel Petts graces the PalaeoManchester blog with beautiful sharks teeth (I’m not biased) (that might be a lie) as she introduces us to a collection of Eocene Chondrichthyan fossils, found in the UK, and recently donated to Manchester Museum. Hooray!