#StateoftheArk Herbarium Discovery Campaign
Join us every Friday on a virtual tour as we delve behind the double doors of our National Herbarium of Victoria and uncover the #StateoftheArk.
We will be revealing all her secrets, which date back hundreds of years! The answers to biosecurity, medicine, climate change and our future may be in her hands...
DAY 8 #StateoftheArk:
Thanks for following our discovery of the National Herbarium of Victoria!
DAY 7 #StateoftheArk:
Over 1.5 million pressed plants, fungi and algae are stored in the National Herbarium of Victoria.
These have been collected from all over the world. Some date back to the 1500s and are now extinct. Because they have been stored for hundreds of years, the quality of the specimen decline over time and we risk of losing them forever.
It is our duty to protect these invaluable collections for the future.
Here in the National Herbarium of Victoria, we have a digitising suite where we capture all the information in the object (pictured right is Angharad, our Digitising Officer). This makes them accessible to everyone.
Before this technology, the only way academics could study these objects was by coming to the herbarium and borrowing them like a library book. Sharing them online connects students, academics and scientists to vital research.
We digitise thousands of preserved plants, algae and specimen ever year. However we estimate that despite this huge effort, we have about 98% to go!
DAY 6 #StateoftheArk:
In our journey so far, we have explored within the National Herbarium of Victoria, showed what we do and how we do it.
Here, we have 3 examples of how this important work is helping Victoria and our community!
1. Discovering New Medicine and Food
Tom plays a big role with researchers around the world to discover and identify new chemicals (good and bad) in fungi. This is used in the creation of new drugs and potentially even new food. Our State Botanical Collection has some very old and irreplaceable dried fungi which is used in this research, in some cases it’s the only version in the world! This means that it is the starting point for this important study and will be used by generations in the future.
2. The Case of the Mexican Feather Grass
In 2013, suspecting that a serious environmental weed was for sale at a major retail outlet, plants were brought to the National Herbarium of Victoria for identification.
Val, Dan and their teams created a new way to “fingerprint” the plant, by looking at our collections of dried plants with literature.
We could then confirm that the plant for sale was the Mexican Feather Grass! Stopping the sale of this plant has saved Victoria’s graziers and farmers an estimated $39 million in damage over the next 60 years.
This new method for plant identification is now widely used around the world!
3. Saving Lives Identifying Plants and Fungi
Our identification service is run by Teresa and Tom and is used by doctors, vets and poisons information centres. With over 3,000 enquiries a year, we use our State Botanical Collection to confirm which poisonous plant or fungi has been eaten. This means that people and animals get the right treatment in time!
DAY 5 #StateoftheArk:
Time travel with the National Herbarium of Victoria 1853 - today (pictured right).
This week we look at three significant contributors to botany, Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, Richard Austin Bastow and Ilma Grace Stone!
1. Portrait of Baron Ferdinand von Mueller (1825-1896): appointed as the first Government Botanist of Victoria in 1853. The National Herbarium of Victoria was also founded by Mueller in this year. He was a prolific collector, naming and describing over 2,000 new species!
2. Mueller’s Microscope
3. Mueller’s Compass
4. Photograph of Richard Austin Bastow (1839-1920) and wife Catherine: Australian naturalist and bryologist.
5. Bastow’s specimen tray of liverworts and lichens: the National Herbarium of Victoria have his entire collections, alongside extensive notebooks and illustrations!
6. Ilma Grace Stone’s Vasculum: a vasculum is a container carried on the shoulder of botanists when out collecting plants. This one is full of mosses and snacks!
Ilma Stone (1913-2001) was a fascinating woman, dux of Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School at age 16 with Honours in English and Botany. She attended the University of Melbourne as 1 of 18 females on campus, gaining her Masters of Science at age 20.
Declining to continue her studies at Cambridge University, she instead devoted her life to marriage and children.
It wasn’t until 1957 (aged 44), while performing domestic duties in the home and listening to the radio, Ilma heard the call for employment at the University of Melbourne in the Botany School.
She returned to academia with a love of mosses, publishing over 70 research papers, and contributing significantly to an area which she strongly believed was a “greatly neglected field in Australia”.
Ilma collected 25,326 specimens from across the continent and donated her entire collection to the National Herbarium of Victoria! See their original locations in Australia here!
DAY 4 #StateoftheArk:
Introducing Pina Milne!
Pina is our Collections Manager at the National Herbarium of Victoria. She has been at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria for over 20 years, and loves the new discoveries she uncovers in the herbarium (there’s one revealed at the end)!
See how our #StateoftheArk journey fits together, as Pina explains the process from start to end.
DAY 3 #StateoftheArk:
This week, we continue to weave through our National Herbarium of Victoria. This time, we focus on our incredible Library!
We have a proud collection of 16th, 17th and 18th century books (stay tuned until the end!), many of which once belonged to the personal library of Ferdinand von Mueller, Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens (1857–1873).
We start by skimming through one of dozens of aisles before hovering over historical letters, manuscripts and photographs. Please take note of the stunning watercolour botanical illustrations! These were used to record details of plant specimens by early Collectors and Explorers and is still very popular today.
Our Library Technician, Philip then opens up the enormous volume of The Banksias by Celia Rosser. Former director, von Mueller gets another mention here! We then glide over to our collection of ceremonial spades, used by Royalty and dignitaries for tree plantings at Melbourne Gardens.
Then it’s into the temperature controlled room for the complete set of Banks' Florilegium (one of only 100 in the world). Many of our fragile, old volumes must be stored in here to preserve them.
DAY 2 #StateoftheArk:
Sneak peeks inside the National Herbarium of Victoria (Part 1)!
Today we explore our Volunteers, fantastically mounting dried plants, fungi and algae onto card.
We then travel down to the basement where our VicSeeds processing room is.
We wind our way through aisles of filed specimens - which is a really tricky process if you want to find them again!
Lastly, you see our Digitising Officer taking photos which are then shared with the world on a huge international online database, JSTOR.
DAY 1 #StateoftheArk:
So what do you think an herbarium is?
We asked a few lovely people on their way past, here's what they said.