Herbaria@home is a volunteer-based project that aims to catalogue and make available the wealth of data represented by the historical herbarium collections held by universities and museums.
The idea of running a distributed project to document was first conceived in late 2005 while I was working as part of a team of volunteers working on documenting the rare plant collection of a regional museum. That project, involving the efforts of nearly 100 volunteers working on site at the musueum for over a year, to document around 10,000 specimens clearly illustrated the enormity of the task of digitising the UK's collections. It showed that the limitation on documentation was not a lack of enthusiastic documenters, but rather the problem of giving large numbers of volunteers physical access to a museum's collection, limited numbers of computers and limited space.
A radically different approach was needed...
In August 2006 the first version of the herbaria@home website was launched, as a small-scale pilot project. We photographed a set of around 2000 specimens (hybrid plants were chosen), and put them on-line. Even with minimal publicity, and with significant problems with the software, over the course over the next two months the specimens where documented. The pilot project showed that it was technically possible to photograph sheets rapidly, that online documentation worked and most importantly that there were able and enthusiastic volunteers who would be prepared to take part.
herbaria@home is supported by the BSBI and the Botanical Collections Managers Group.
For more information please contact Tom Humphrey