From Pins to Plants - Field Book Project

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Tuesday, 12 August 2014


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Lesley Parilla

Breann has headed back to her college, so here is a response from Nora Lockshin, the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ conservator.

Hello there Penny! You can find wonderful tips on our own and colleagues’ pages for preserving your findings of fall and other seasons. Breann describes above how she “mounted the plants onto a sturdy card stock and placed them in protective folders”, but a picture and guide sheet are worth the thousand words that exceeded her blog quota! Take a look over here, at our Botany department’s DC Flora Kids Page. There are great guides there for both pressing and mounting for a step-by-step illustrated guides and video. If you don’t have a press, I would consider using the weight of a heavy book, but not drying the specimen in the book itself considering the stains and cockling that can result. The specimens that we prepare are usually stacked for storage in museum cabinets, but if you want to keep yours in a journal or other sketchbook, add an additional step of creating a four-flap enclosure of archival quality paper for the specimen on its card mount. (In the linked tutorial, for thickness, consider the full thickness of the specimen – you may not need to have a space at all and just simple folds if it is a flattened leaf, but if you have a thick stem, perhaps you will need that space). That is what we do for specimens found in field books, so that they remain associated, either tucked into or placed adjacent to the book in its new box, but now protected from harm or harming the book. There is an image set that shows this intervention in the post Flattened Between the Pages over on our partner blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives’ The Bigger Picture. In the slideshow, you will see a snakeskin found in a book that was mounted using herbarium specimen techniques!

Additional tips can be found here, Preparing And Storing Herbarium Specimens from the National Park Service’s ConservOGram series. You may find other video tutorials and guides on the web, such as the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh video, the Florida Museum of Natural History's mounting guide, and The Use and Methods of Making a Herbarium/Plant Specimens- An Herb Society of America Guide but note that these all do use glue overall or in spots on the specimen itself, which we do not do. Your goals in making artistic collages may differ from our need to preserve the specimen intact, yet ready for future scientific analyses. Overall gluing interferes with this, and can change the appearance of thin, transparent petals or leaves; spot glueing can create stress points during humidity fluctuations that may lead to breakage. However, your artistic goals are different from ours, so those guides are also potentially useful to your needs, and you should enjoy and use your collection how you see fit. Coincidentally, I just yesterday read a short article by another artist-calligrapher who is finding inspiration in herbaria. I look forward to what you both do!

Preparing And Storing Herbarium Specimens ConservOgram National Park Service’s http://www.nps.gov/museum/publications/conserveogram/11-12.pdf

NMNH Botany department’s Creating a Specimen http://botany.si.edu/dcflora/kidspage/creatingspec.htm



Penny Gregory

Breann-- your article begs the question to the lay-preservationists out there like myself: what's the best way to go about salvaging those beautiful autumn leaves, flower samples, 4-leaf clovers, and interesting things that I find daily on my treks through my yard?

Currently they make their way into a huge book or two, occasionally onto a collage or piece of altered art, but mostly kept in the books to keep them pristine.

Any better ideas?

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Field Book Project Website

The Field Book Project is an initiative to increase accessibility to field book content that documents natural history. Through ongoing partnerships within and beyond the Smithsonian Institution, the Project is making field books easier to find and available in a digital format for current research, as well as inspiring new ways of utilizing these rich information resources.
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