From Plant Press, Vol. 17, No. 4, October 2014.
By Meghann Toner
The first line of defense in protecting the U.S. National Herbarium collections from the agents of deterioration is the cases that house them. In the past, these cases were handmade in the Smithsonian craft shops from wood and glass. In the 1940s these cases cost $29.00 to create. Today metal cases cost considerably more. The wood and glass half cases first used in the Smithsonian Castle were transferred to the Natural History Building in 1965. In 1968, metal cases were purchased to replace the wooden cases a little at a time. As conservation technologies have improved, so has the housing around our collections.
Over the decades a greater percentage of our wooden cases have been replaced. This massive effort to replace all the wooden cabinets has required funds that have ebbed and flowed over the years. This year, with the generous help of the Collections Care and Preservation Fund (CCPF), we are able to purchase 160 new herbarium cases from Viking Metal Cabinet Company. These new cases will replace 138 wooden cases.
As a result of this new configuration, there will be additional space. For every new metal case, we gain at least two pigeon holes of space. We will be gaining 848 pigeon holes or 32 cases. Unfortunately, this also means the loss of counter space which is partially offset by the fact that each new case has two pull out shelves.
All these cases are planned to be delivered during the fall of 2014. The tasks of installation of cases will require the assistance of, not only the Botany Department’s staff, but also the Museum’s craft shops and labor force. This will be a team effort and one that will make it possible to improve and protect our collections into the future.