Student Worker Manual
by Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D. Herbarium Curator Biology Department College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University Collegeville, MN 56321
update: 9 September, 1999
This manual is written for our student workers and is designed to provide information about the common jobs and activities in the CSB/SJU Bailey Herbarium. For more information, contact the curator.
- Daily Tasks
- Laminated Specimens
- Accessioning Specimens in the Permanent Collection
- Filing Specimens in the Permanent Collection
- Color Code to Genus Folders
- Filing Specimens in the Teaching Collection
- Pest Control
- Packet Preparation
- Mounting Specimens
- Preparing Herbarium Specimens
- Studying Herbarium Specimens
- Quick Freeze Specimens
- water plants (approximately weekly or when soil looks dry)
- check soap and paper towel dispensers in the Herbarium and Botany lab and fill as necessary
- tidy up the Botany Lab (wipe down table tops, dust, put away materials that are obviously out of place, throw away obvious garbage, organize materials left out for classes so they look neat. If in doubt about something, obviously leave it alone and/or ask)
- priority of tasks: (1) check white-board for new jobs; (2) unstack mounted plants and put in cubby to be filed; (3) file laminated specimens; and (4) any of the following in no particular order - file specimens in the permanent collection; file specimens in the teaching collection; mount plants; enter plants in the database.
- clean up the herbarium when you are finished working for the day. Make sure to leave enough time for cleaning. This includes: dusting tables/benches, cleaning around sink, throwing away obvious garbage, putting items back in their proper place, cleaning up scraps by the paper cutter, and organizing journals and books; etc.
- Record your hours and a description of your work activities in the Log Book
- Laminated specimens get filed in the open-front, wooden file cases
- File by family - family names are written on the back of the specimen or on the label. If there is no family divider, create a new one. Use the existing family dividers as a model.
- File in the following order: (1) machine-laminated specimens; (2) contact paper-covered specimens; and (3) small specimens - put them all in a folder.
- Filing laminated specimens is a top priority
To prepare a laminated (Contact Paper) specimen:
Obtain an appropriate-sized sheet of herbarium paper. Typically, an entire sheet of herbarium mounting paper is used but it depends upon the size of the specimen. Cut a piece of cardboard slightly larger than the mounting. For a full-sized sheet of mounting paper a standard herbarium ventilator (i.e., cardboard) works well. Cut a piece of contact paper approximately six inches wider than the specimen.
Lay the herbarium paper on the cardboard. There should be no more than about 3 cm of cardboard showing around all edges. Arrange the specimen on the herbarium paper. Remove the backing from the contact paper and carefully place the contact paper over the specimen. Avoid wrinkles and bubbles in the contact paper and moving the specimen. Smooth down the contact paper and fold the overlapping edges beneath the specimen.
To prepare a machine-laminated specimen:
These specimens are laminated by machine in the CSB Media Center in HAB. Simply bring the specimen and mounting paper to the Media Center (Sister Denise) and ask for it to be laminated. They will place the sheet on heavy tag board and then laminate it. This is the preferred method of laminating. It costs approximately $0.80 per sheet.
Accessioning Specimens in the Permanent Collection
All specimens that are entered in the permanent collection are given an unique accession number. The numbers proceed in sequence. We currently have approximately 28,000 specimens accessioned into our permanent collections.
To accession a specimen:
- obtain the number stamp, herbarium stamp, accession record book and stamp pad
- the accession number is placed inside the official herbarium stamp on the upper right- hand corner of the specimen.
- if the specimen comes from another herbarium and already has their stamp/accession number, put ours on the specimen, too. If the upper right hand corner has plant material or is otherwise occupied, put the accession stamp as close as possible to the upper right hand corner so that it still looks attractive.
- practice with all stamps before using them on a specimen
- stamp the specimen with our herbarium stamp (practice first)
- check the accession record book for the last number stamped. This should match the number on the stamp. If the number on the stamp and the number in the book don’t match, see below.
- change the number on the stamp to the next number in sequence. Stamp it in the space on the accession stamp (practice first).
- when finished for the day, stamp the last number used in the accession record book and record the date.
When the Stamp and Accession Record Records Don’t Match
Use your best judgment to determine which number is correct. Did you forget to stamp the book last time? Did someone tamper with the stamp and change the number? Do you remember what the last specimen filed was and can you check it?
Once you have made a decision as to the number, make a note in the Accession Record Book justifying your decision.
Filling Speciment in the Permanent Collection
- Accession the specimen
- Enter the specimen in the Herbarium Database
- Determine the family to which the specimen belongs. This information is often provided on the label or can be found up in Mabberley’s Plant Book, Ownbey's & Morley's Atlas of Plants of Minnesota, or other reference (Willis's Dictionary of the Flowering Plants and Ferns).
- Once the family is known, consult the "Alphabetical Listing of Vascular Plant Families" that is posted throughout the herbarium to find the family number.
- Locate the family in the appropriate case. If the specimen is the first in its family, a family divider (and genus folder) needs to be created. Blank dividers and labels are available and the new divider should be created using existing ones as a model. Be sure to include the family number (see listing) on the label.
- Place the specimen in the appropriate folder in the family.
- Within a family, plants are sorted alphabetically by genus.
- Specimens are also sorted by geographic origin. Plants from Minnesota are filed first in a genus folder with a yellow dot followed by Non-Minnesota Plants (orange dot), and finally specimens in the Z.L. Chandonnet Collection (red dot).
- Within a genus folder, species are sorted alphabetically (if numerous individuals of a particular species exist, a separate species folder should be created).
- If may be necessary to create additional genus (or species) folders. Use existing folders as a model.
- Specimens from the Flora Exsiccata Austro-Hungarica collection should be kept in their white newsprint folder.
Color Code to Genus Folders
Each genus folder is numbered with the family number inside a colored dot. The color-code represents the source of the specimen.
In the herbarium case, specimens should be filed in the following order: Minnesota specimens (yellow dot), Out-of-State specimens (orange dot); finally Z.L. Chandonnet specimens (red dot). A color code sheet is available inside each cabinet as a reminder.
Filing Specimens in the Teaching Collection
- Specimens in the teaching collection are filed alphabetically by family.
- Within a family, specimens are placed in separate folders in the following order: (1) identified specimens in separate genus (or species) folders arranged alphabetically; (2) unidentified specimens; and (3) unknowns for Plant taxonomy class.
- specimens must be placed in a genus folder and not placed in the cubby simply wrapped in newsprint.
- If the identify of the specimen is known, put it in the appropriate genus (or species) folder.
- If the specimen is not identified, place it in an"Indet" folder.
Always be on the lookout for evidence of insect pests. If you observe evidence such as: (1) specimens that appear to have been eaten; (2) living or dead insects; (3) insect parts; or (4) plant material that appears powdered; tell the curator immediately.
If pests are discovered, the cabinet must be treated immediately. All specimens will be removed, wrapped in plastic bags, and repeatedly frozen and thawed to kill pests. The cabinet will be disinfected before returning the specimens.
Any specimens brought into the herbarium will be freeze-treated and/or microwaved to kill potential pests.
If commercially prepared packets are not available, make them according to the following directions:
- Determine which size packet is required (small, medium or large) and obtain the appropriate template.
- Obtain an appropriate-sized sheet of paper. Large packets are prepared from a full sheet of paper (8.5 x 11); Medium packets use an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper cut in half (final size - 5.5 x 8.5); Small packets use an 8.5 x 11 sheet cut in quarters (final size - 4.25 x 5.5).
- Place the template over the paper. The top (narrowest part) of the template should line up with the top edge (narrow end) of the paper.
- Fold upward the paper extending below the template.
- Remove the template and now fold the top section downward over the previous folded section
- Place the paper over the template and fold the sides backward using the sides of template as a guide.
Mounting Paper: Specimens are mounted on standard-sized (11.5 x 16.5 inches) archival (acid-free, 100% rag) paper.
Glue: Various types of glue have been used. Archival quality white glue works best. Elmer's glue is a reasonable and inexpensive substitute.
Materials Required: mounting paper, glue, cookie tray, paint brush, squirt bottle with glue, probes, weights, blocks, cardboard ventilators, squirt bottle with water.
To mount a specimen, gather the mounting materials. Pour some glue directly on the cookie sheet and then add a little water to thin. Mix the glue and water with a paint brush and spread it around the cookie sheet.
Place a sheet of mounting paper on top of cardboard ventilator. Place the label in the lower right-hand corner. Before gluing, lay out the specimen on the mounting paper. Considerations when arranging the specimen:
- leave a border at the margin of the paper
- leave room for the label in the lower right-hand corner
- leave room for a packet above the label
- avoid placing plant material near the left-hand edge of the specimen because there is more pressure here from gripping the genus folder
- choose the best side of the specimen to display
- expose hidden flowers/fruits
- carefully remove excess soil from roots
- trim the specimen as necessary. Save trimmings in a packet
- any loose items should be saved and placed in a packet
- separate plants in clumps
- keep the specimens aligned in the same direction
- smaller specimens should be placed at the top of the sheet, larger ones near the bottom
- if the plants are small, mount a few and place the rest in a packet
- place large specimens diagonally to better fit
- large specimens may need to be folded into a "V" or "W" to fit on the sheet. Mount with the apex pointing up or the root pointing down.
- be sure that both sides of the leaves are visible. If necessary, detach a leaf and glue it upside down or place it in a packet
- if there is only a single leaf, cut a small segment and turn it over or place in a packet
- leave room for the herbarium label in the lower right hand corner. If the label is too large, put it in a packet and then prepare a separate label with the scientific name that is glued on the sheet
- the specimen should look as attractive as possible
Once the specimen arrangement has been decided, glue the specimen. Larger specimens can be gently placed in the glue in the cookie tray. Push the specimen completely into the glue using the probe. Carefully remove the specimen and then place it in its proper position on the mounting paper. If the specimen is too delicate to place in the glue on the tray, then using the squirt bottle, run glue along the bottom side of the specimen and place it on the mounting paper. Once the specimen is on the sheet, check that it is firmly attached. Using the squirt bottle, glue down any additional areas that need it. Glue the label down with full strength glue (diluted glue will cause the label to wrinkle). Place weights on the specimens to hold it in place while the glue dries. Be careful to avoid gluing the weights to the sheet. As additional specimens are prepared, stack the specimens using the wood blocks.
Preparing Herbarium Specimens
- Prune plant as necessary to obtain an attractive, yet scientifically accurate, specimen;
- Place between sheet of newspaper in a plant press. Some leaves up and others down, arrange in an attractive way. Large stems bent in a "V" or "W". A card with a slit can help hold plants in a bent shape. Plants shouldn't extend beyond edge of newspaper. Put your collection number on the newspaper. Some specimens are very difficult to fit into the press or cause special problems -- see text (succulents, thick woody structures; large; very small; spiny).
- Then, place in a plant press. You essentially make a "dagwood sandwich" in the following sequence: frame - cardboard (also called a ventilator; the corrugations should all run in the same direction, perpendicular to the long axis of the press) - blotter (dryer) - specimen in newsprint - blotter - cardboard - blotter - specimen - repeat, ad infinitum. Tighten press with strap - stand on it if necessary;
- Place the press over a source of heat if possible/necessary (light bulbs work well and minimize the fire hazard) with adequate ventilation. Use the drying cabinet in the Botany Lab;
- After 8-12 hours open the press and rearrange the specimens as necessary. Press again. It may be necessary to change newspaper and/or blotters. It is critical to dry specimens quickly to prevent decomposition, prevent mold growth, and maintain color.
Studying Herbarium Specimens
Do not remove any material from an herbarium specimen without the permission of the Curator. To study a dry specimen, the sample must be rehydrated and softened. To do this, apply 10% glycerin in water or boil with a few drops of detergent or simply add a few drops of warm soapy water.
To prepare frozen specimens: Place the flowers in a Chinese food take-away container. Fill the container but do not compact or overfill. Write the family and scientific names on the container with a marker and then place in the freezer at low humidity.
Works great to preserve color and shape, especially flowers
Bulky, costly storage, specimens may "melt" (don't last long outside of freezer).
Visitors to the Herbarium
If there are visitors to the herbarium, please make them welcome. Invite them to examine the displays, relax, study, listen to music or use the computer (if it's not in use). Give them our herbarium literature (i.e., Fact Sheet, Brief History, Guide to the Collections). Request that they sign the Guest Book.
If the visitor plans to consult and study the collections, provide an orientation to the herbarium that should include:
- signing the Guest Book
- showing the arrangement of the collection, location of family/numerical listings
- unlocking cabinets (if necessary)
- showing the location of reference materials
- providing tools for specimen study (razor blades, probes, microscope slides, petri dishes, dissecting microscope, lens paper and cleaner, hot plate, detergent or glycerin, beaker)
- showing the safety equipment available in the herbarium (first aid kit, fire extinguisher, exits)
- Forman, L. & D. Bridson (eds). 1989. The Herbarium Handbook. Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.
- Field Techniques Used by Missouri Botanical Garden by R. Liesner
- Holmgren, P., Keuken, Schofield. 1990. Index Herbariorum. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY. NYBG Website
- Pedersen, B.B. 1987. An Herbarium for Seawell. Carolina Tips 50: 5-7.
- von Reis Altschul, Siri. 1977. Exploring the herbarium. Scientific American. pp. 96 - 104
A. Adding a book to the herbarium library
Keep the shelves organized
Make sure articles and magazines are neat and in their proper place
When a new issue comes out, remove the old issue and place it on the shelf beneath the article or magazine that is being displayed.