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The largest herbarium imaging project in the southern hemisphere is underway at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Our botanical specimens at the National Herbarium of NSW are becoming high-resolution digital images. 

The digitisation project is a significant first step to move the National Herbarium of NSW to a new facility at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan, to create Australia’s leading botanic science precinct. The first specimen to go digital on 30 April, 2019 was Anthoceros dichotomus Raddi, a hornwort discovered on 1 April 1899 by S. Sommier. 

In 2021, around 1.4 million high-resolution digital images will be available for everyone around the world to access. It will help researchers make new discoveries to advance science and conservation and it assists in protecting our valuable collection. 

Picturae is one of the world’s most renowned digitisation companies and is undertaking the project in partnership with International Conservation Services and Alembo. The conveyor belt is fully mechanical and is controlled by software that makes the image capturing process completely automated to minimise handling of extremely fragile materials. 

The high grade lenses can capture the finest specimen details in resolutions up to 570ppi and approximately 4000 specimens a day will be digitised. 

Support and follow the digitisation journey

You can support the digitisation project and be a part of the journey in our Branch Out podcast, blogs and videos below. 

Herbarium digistreet set-up 

Digitising the specimens is performed using Picturae's high-tech conveyor belt system known as the 'herbarium digistreet' and it has come all the way from the Netherlands. Here is a timelapse of the team setting up the herbarium digistreet at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney in April, 2019. 

See the first week of digitising in action

Discover the herbarium's history, how specimens are used and step into the digitisation room with Collections Manager Dr Shelley James, Senior Research Scientist Dr Marco Duretto and Picturae's Project Manager Dieuwertje Van Willigen in this Facebook live show that aired on 3 May 2019. 

Unlocking the power of plant data in our podcast

Take a deeper dive into the project and what it means for the future of plant conservation in this episode of our Branch Out podcast that went live on 15 May 2019. You'll get to hear from Collections Manager Dr Shelley James, Picturae's Project Manager Dieuwertje Van Willigen and Scientific Officer Dr Kerry Gibbons.