Herbarium specimens as art

As important as herbaria are to science, I think they are also important in a different kind of way.

At UNB, we have an entire room filled with cabinets which are stuffed with specimens.  Not all of them are as pretty as the rose specimen pictured below, but I find that each one is a little slice of beauty.  Whether it’s the arrangement of the parts on the sheet to show off all the parts of the plant, how carefully they have been labelled, the way the colours have or have not changed with drying, the age of the specimen; something almost always makes me stop to look.

Someone collected, pressed and dried this plant, looked carefully at it to identify it correctly, recorded details about the where and when and why it was collected, selected archival materials and arranged it aesthetically, and filed it in the herbarium to preserve it forever.

So, while we should be inviting students of botany, environmental studies or forestry to visit our collections, I think these treasuries would also be enjoyed by teachers, artists, writers, historians, etc.  I have also seen preserved plants, plant prints and scientific style specimens sold on Etsy and admired on social media sites like Pinterest, and hung in board rooms and hotel lobbies.

High resolution scans of many of our specimens are available to view on our website: www.unbherbarium.ca.

 

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UNB Herbarium specimen: Rosa palustris Marsh.

 

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