An active research centre
The collections of the National Herbarium of New South Wales date from 1770, made by Sir Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander on the first voyage of Captain James Cook on the Endeavour, to today. A little over half of our specimens are from Australia – and NSW in particular. The remainder are voucher specimens from our nearest neighbor countries and the rest of the world.
The name given to the collection in 1901, the National Herbarium of NSW, was bestowed by the then Director of the Botanic Garden, Joseph Maiden. It indicates the scope of the herbarium and its scientific work, like plants themselves, are not limited by state borders. We share and exchange our specimens with national and international herbaria for scientific study, much like a library loan system.
The specimens in the National Herbarium of NSW are primarily used for scientific research such as the naming of species, studying the relationships between plants, and how populations of a species differ. Because the specimens have been collected at different places at different times, they help us to understand how the plants and forest types – and their associated animals – have changed, migrated or been lost to us forever.
They are used as an aid in identifying plants, and are also used by artisans - see Art Inspired by Science here. Many uses, many of which we would not have thought of when the collection was first established. The specimens also tell the story of the many collectors, naturalists, curators, and volunteers that have carefully studied and preserved each item.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Herbarium you can explore some of the collections in the National Herbarium of NSW on display in the Red Box Gallery, open Monday-Friday, 9:30am to 4:30pm, or join us virtually by touring the exhibit via the Twitter video below.
To learn more about why the National Herbarium of NSW is being relocated to the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan please visit the project page here.