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Grant Helps Butler's Friesner Herbarium Put Plants Online


More than 1,900 specimens of ferns and orchids that grow in Indiana can now be seen and studied online, thanks to an $8,000 grant Butler University received from the Indiana State Library.

The digital images, along with specific information on each plant, are available here. The plants are part of the collection in Butler’s Friesner Herbarium, which houses specimens from more than 43,000 Indiana plants as well as 55,000 samples from elsewhere. (Herbaria are systemic collections of pressed and dried plants with labels that document who collected them, when, and where. The focus of the Friesner Herbarium is plants that grow outside of cultivation.)

The University will publicly unveil the project at 3 p.m. Aug. 18 at Irwin Library. The event is free and open to the public.

“The idea is that hopefully, having this information available will make more people aware of the collection and its historical value,” said Rebecca Dolan, director of the Friesner Herbarium. “And as people are interested in the history of a county, they can look back at our records. Many of our specimens were collected in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, before there was a lot of development in most of the state.”

Digitizing the first 1,900 specimens began a year ago as a joint project between the Herbarium and the Irwin Library. Lewis Miller, dean of the libraries, was the principal investigator on the grant. Butler partnered with IUPUI’s library to photograph the plants, then linked the images with data from each specimen. Irwin Library Catalog Librarian Janice Gustaferro entered the pictures and information into a searchable database.

Dolan said the process went so well that a second grant – this time $20,000 – will enable the University to digitize another 6,400 specimens from the sunflower/daisy family.

“The ultimate goal would be to get all 43,000 Indiana specimens digitized so people don’t have to come here to see the specimens,” she said.

The herbarium’s collection is kept in folders inside lockers that protect the specimens from light, water and insects. Dolan said the plants are useful in a variety of ways – for professional botanists interested in species distributions; for students and teachers studying Indiana natural history; for people trying to establish historical landscapes; for people interested in the spread of non-native plants.

The project is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Indiana State Library.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is to grow and sustain a “nation of learners,” because lifelong learning is essential to a democratic society and individual success. Through its grant making, convenings, research and publications, the institute empowers museums and libraries nationwide to provide leadership and services to enhance learning in families and communities, sustain cultural heritage, build 21st century skills and increase civic participation. More information is available at www.imls.gov<http://www.imls.gov>.

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