The Herbarium Handbook: Sharing best practice from across the globe | Leonardo/ISASTwith Arizona State University

The Herbarium Handbook: Sharing best practice from across the globe

The Herbarium Handbook: Sharing best practice from across the globe
by Nina M.J. Davies, C. Drinkal, T.M. A. Utteridge, Editors

Kew publishing, London, UK, 2023
256 pp., illus. 700 col. Paper, $US20
ISBN: 978-184246-769-5.

Reviewed by: 
Mike Leggett
July 2024

The methodologies employed in a herbarium are amongst the oldest employed in the scientific identification and classification of evidence, in the form of specimens, from the natural world. This volume is impressively thorough in providing a framework for any researcher developing a research program or reporting on a completed series of enquiries. This study, of collecting and preserving plant specimens, is for professional and amateur botanists alike. But it is also a case-study of scientific practice applicable to other fields. The methods employed in both fieldwork and laboratory work are lavishly illustrated in a layout design that makes for rapid location of each stage in the process of accessing a specimen into the herbarium collection, complete with tips for the hard-pressed technician. Refences for further reading are appended on the same page of description; there is also a full index at the end of the book, all references made in the text being listed. The book is published by Kew Gardens in SW London, England, on the site of one of the oldest botanical collections in the world; additionally, reference is made to sister herbaria with specific collections highlighted, along with individual collectors who are active: in Indonesia, Scotland, New York, California, Rio de Janeiro, Myanmar, Singapore, and Australia. Though the volume is clearly designed for use by professional botanical researchers, its clarity of expression and design sets the benchmark for methods and techniques for the (mainly) non-destructive collection of specimens, prior to description and cataloguing, (including the use of AI), before preparation for mounting and culminating in exhibition and publishing, the final stages in the dissemination of scientific knowledge. To the amateur botanist and the citizen scientist the book will encourage the care and attention to detail that has typified the establishment of this discipline. At a time of massive global upset, by encouraging the documentation of the biodiversity of species and those most under threat from land-clearing and climate change the project of maintaining and developing herbaria is a mission essential to comprehending the complexity of the natural world within which humans are so thoroughly embedded.