Care and Conservation of Specimens
We have a duty to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections. To protect our herbarium specimens from loss or damage, we have specifically designed storage and strict specimen handling guidelines. The condition of the collection is monitored, and repairs to specimens are carried out to appropriate conservation standards.
The sections below include information on
- agents of deterioration
- safe storage environment
- specimen handling
- mounting materials
- condition surveying
- repair techniques
See also the links in the sidebar.
Agents of deterioration
Over time, herbarium specimens may become damaged due to:
- a major disaster such as fire or flood,
- insect damage.
- poor storage environment
- careless handling
- breakdown of the materials used to prepare them
Useful Links & Documens
Safe storage environment
The herbarium collections are housed in a secure, purpose-built building. We monitor the temperature and humidity of the storage environment, aiming for a stable 20 degrees temperature and 50% relative humidity (extreme fluctuations in temperature or humidity can damage the fragile plant material).
Metal storage cabinets with rubber door seals protect the specimens from light, dust and insects.
The techniques and materials we use to repair specimens have been developed with the help and advice of professional conservators.
Repairs or annotations to specimens, particularly if they are types or important historical collections, should interfere with the specimen as little as possible.
A simple but effective solution for fragile or damaged specimens is to use a large capsule with a sheet of mounting board inside it to protect and support the specimen.
For further information see our factsheet.
We have these posters in the Herbarium to remind staff and visitors how to handle specimens so as to minimise damage. Click on the images to enlarge.
The video shows how to pack herbarium specimens for sending out to other institutions on loan:
If the materials used to prepare Herbarium specimens are not of archival quality, they may deteriorate over time. For further information see section 2 of RBGE Collections Care: Preparation and Care of Herbarium Specimens (link in the sidebar)
Older specimens in the collection may have been stored previously in less suitable places or suffered damaged from careless handling.
In order to identify the types of damage to specimens in our collection, we carried out a condition survey during imaging and databasing of mounted herbarium specimens.
This allowed us to prioritize specimens for repair, and estimate the cost in terms of staff time and materials. Click on the image to enlarge.