Digitisation of collections


At RBGE we are undertaking a number of digitisation projects focusing on our herbarium collections and other interesting and useful material relating to herbarium specimens. We have now digitised over 150,000 specimens thanks to the projects below.

We are undertaking a long running project to digitise all the type specimens in the herbarium.  This work is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the Global Types Initiative (GTI).

Herbarium specimen collected by George Forrest

As well as being available on our own webiste, the data and the images are also available on JSTOR Plant Science, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to make scholarly articles and related material accessible in a digital library.

Detail of herbarium specimen collected by George Forrest

We have now completed the digitisation of all type specimens in the flowering plants, ferns and fern-allies, mosses, liverworts, and clubmosses, algae (excluding diatoms), fungi and lichen collections. We are continuing to discover type specimens in the herbarium and these are being digitised as they are found.

We have also been working to digitise all the specimens held at RBGE collected in South West Asia and the Middle East and we have now completed about two thirds of the flowering plants. This work has been funded by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government has also funded the digitisation of specimens of some key Scottish threatened or endangered species.

You can search the RBGE Herbarium Catalogue for specimens that have been digitised. Please be aware that there may still be many type specimens in the herbarium which we are not yet aware of so please contact us if you do not see a specimen which we may hold.


We have been developing new methods and tools for digitising herbarium specimens at RBGE. Our aim has been to increase the rate of digitisation whilst capturing high quality images and incorporating a level of curation within the process.


Haston, E, Cubey, R, Pullan, M, Atkins, H & Harris, DJ (2012). Developing integrated workflows for the digitisation of herbarium specimens using a modular and scalable approach. Zookeys, 2089. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.209.3121 Download

Haston, EM & Cubey, R & Harris, DJ (2012). Data concepts and their relevance for data capture in large scale digitisation of biological collections. International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, 6(1-2): 111-119. DOI: 10.3366/ijhac.2012.0042 Download

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Digitising herbarium specimens

Digitising herbarium specimens


The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)