Written by Bronwynne Petersen

The NSCF has embarked on a mass imaging project to image the specimens at NSCF partner herbaria. The purpose for the project is to make those specimen records publicly available and to ensure the security of the specimens, and prevent their loss or that of the entire collections at those institutions, in case of fire or other disasters that may compromise the collection.

Thus, imaging herbarium specimens has many benefits as the images that will be made available provides the institution with new options for collection digitization, speeds up the data capture process and also improves the quality of the data.

The collection data of these specimens will be linked to the images in the database, hence it will be easier for researchers, students and other lay persons across the world to make use of without the worry of other users mishandling and damaging physical specimens. Remember, some specimens are over 100 years old, so they are extremely valuable and we can’t afford to damage nor lose them!

The technician team busy at work.

The NSCF will image over 500 thousand specimens collectively across the partner herbaria and this project will run for approximately 17 months, led by Dr Ian Engelbrecht (Digitization coordinator), five NSCF technicians and Bronwynne Petersen (Data quality specialist), who supervises the technicians.

The technicians have undergone extensive training before embarking on this project, with their expertise including handling of specimens, specimen filing, mounting, data capturing, working with camera equipment, how to set up and use a lightbox and the various software that is involved in these processes.

We have already started imaging at the H. G. W. J. Schweickerdt (PRU) herbarium at the University of Pretoria which consists of ± 120 000 specimens. From then, we will embark on our next journey to the next partner herbaria.

Great work ahead!