Rapid growth of the collection begins
Space is always an issue for herbarium collections. Discussions about the expansion of the original herbarium building began in the 1930’s. One hundred years after inception, the herbarium contained over 700,000 specimens, and the original building was rapidly running out of space, and the Botanical Museum was boxed to create more room.
By 1970, the herbarium had grown to over a million specimens, and the staff and collections were split across five different buildings. Finally, in 1982 funding became available for the construction of the current building, and a fourth floor was added in the mid-1990’s. Today, we look towards yet again to expanding into a new building.
The National Herbarium of NSW has throughout its history embraced and accessioned orphaned collections as institutions become no longer able to house them. Some part of the collection were even purchased in the past, such as Reverend Francis Wilson’s herbarium of over 20,000 lichen specimens in 1899, a practice which is no longer practical or feasible.
Collections from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (now the Powerhouse Museum), Hawkesbury Agricultural College, the University of New South Wales moss collection, the NSW Forestry wood collection, and more recently collections from the John Macarthur Agricultural Institute have become incorporated into the National Herbarium of NSW.
How the collection continues to grow
Enthusiastic collectors also leave their personal collections to the National Herbarium of NSW, providing many valuable specimens that document the flora of NSW and elsewhere, and increasing the resource available for scientific research. The Herbarium has also transferred parts of the collection as the scope of research has changed, such as the fungal collections which are now part of the New South Wales Plant Pathology & Mycology Herbarium.
Specimens have been contributed from collectors from diverse backgrounds, not just scientists and explorers, and today we receive many collections through the Botanical Information Service, the herbarium identification counter. Many people have graced the halls of the National Herbarium of NSW, and if only the walls could talk they would tell a great many amusing and fascinating tales about science, botany and the history of the Botanic Gardens.
Find out where the next phase of growth will take the herbarium on our blog here.