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Abstract Detail


Tarnowsky, Nicole [1], Weiss, Amy [1].

Out of the Cold Room and Into the Light – Unidentified Legacy Collections at the New York Botanical Garden.

Now in its 125th year, the New York Botanical Garden has had a long tradition of worldwide expeditions; with the last fifty years focused on regions of high diversity and endemism in the New World Tropics. The Garden has taken great care to process the collections made on these trips and have them identified by the world’s specialists; routinely sending them on loan, as gifts for identification, or having them examined by in-person visitors. Even with these efforts, we are left with a large legacy of specimens yet to be determined. These tend to be the most difficult specimens to identify as a result of gaps in expertise, and in some cases because the specimen does not match any known species. A recent study suggests that 50% of the estimated 70,000 species of plants yet to be described are already represented in herbaria as unidentified or misidentified collections (Bebber et al. 2010). Our best practices in herbarium management have been to avoid distributing duplicates until a collection has been fully identified to species. In an era before databases, this ensured the most organized and efficient way to handle determinations. Also, the value of a duplicate is greatly enhanced if it has been accurately named by an expert, especially when sent to local herbaria. The drawback is that specimens stored in a cold storage room separate from the accessioned herbarium are not seen by the wider botanical community who could possibly help in identification. With such a large, actively growing herbarium, it begs the question, how long do you wait for a determination before distributing an unidentified collection? The last twenty years have continued to show us new ways databases can aid our work; now allowing us to change our protocols and get more legacy collections out of the cold room. Utilizing our database we can analyze the plant groups that comprise these collections and expand our search for specialists, while also searching for existing determinations in other online databases and literature. Recording where we distribute unidentified collections in the database has allowed us to easily keep track of each duplicate and report future determinations to the receiving institutions.

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1 - The New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY, 10458, USA

Collections Management

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: 34, Historical Section Contributed Papers
Location: 200/Savannah International Trade and Convention Center
Date: Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016
Time: 4:45 PM
Number: 34005
Abstract ID:89
Candidate for Awards:None

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