Herbarium Collections

Conditions for visitors consulting the
Herbarium Collections

1. In line with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew's policy on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing, no specimens or parts of specimens may be removed from the collections without separate written permission (see also Destructive Sampling). Specimens must not be removed from the Herbarium even on a temporary basis.

2. Any material submitted for deep freezing will be ready for collection in not less than 72 hours from the time of placement in the freezer.

3. Visitors are requested not to enter the Quadrangle Compactor Store without permission. This must be reconfirmed with your staff member responsible on a daily basis.

4. Please do not use the Herbarium collections until you have been introduced to your staff member responsible and/or other designated staff member. If it is your first visit he/she will explain how the Kew system works and offer any necessary guidance on the correct handling of herbarium specimens. Always treat the specimens as a priceless scientific and historic resource. Remember to keep the specimens face upwards. Do not treat a genus cover as a book and flip the specimens over so that they are face downwards. Do not leave unstable stacks of specimens on the tables and always cover specimens when not working with them.

5. As far as possible, all specimens studied should be annotated. Determinavit or Confirmavit slips, showing determination, signature and date, either printed or legibly written in permanent ink, should be attached to the sheet (preferably as near to the bottom right as possible) concerned with the glue provided. Please do not stick determination labels of the 'self adhesive type' (even if alleged to be of archival quality) to herbarium sheets. When specimens of more than one taxon or collection are mounted on one sheet, separate slips should be provided for each. Except to distinguish the various elements of such mixtures, no marks should be made on the sheets themselves. Existing labels, other determinations, notes, etc. must not in any circumstances be removed, covered or in any way defaced. We provide archivally approved stationery for use on herbarium specimens. Please do not use ordinary office stationery.

6. If you notice a previously unrecognised type specimen, or if you re-determine a specimen, please draw it to the attention of your staff member responsible (or other designated staff member). Before removing any such specimens from a species cover check that the country of collection is clearly indicated on the specimen. Once removed from the context of the Herbarium, historical (or classical) specimens can be difficult to re-incorporate. Please do not attempt to re-arrange the collections without first consulting your member of staff responsible (or other designated staff member).

Health & Safety. It should be noted that Kew specimens might, at some time, have been chemically treated to deter insect infestation. Specimens should be handled with appropriate care. Gloves are available on request.

Loans. Please ask for guidance before putting aside any specimens that you wish to have sent on loan (see Policy for the Loan of Herbarium Specimens). You will be provided with a loan request form which must be signed on your behalf by the Head / Collections Manager of the Recipient Institution and returned to RBG, Kew before the loan can be processed.

Ancillary collections. Please first ask your staff member responsible (or other designated staff member) if you wish to consult the carpological or spirit collections. The spirit collection is normally open until 13.00 each day.

Dissection. The dissection of type material is normally discouraged. However, with permission, the dissection of reasonable portions of non-type specimens is permitted, providing the material is adequate. All dissected portions must be placed in a paper capsule and attached to the herbarium sheet concerned using the archival glue provided. Microscope slides or other preparations made from material in the collections remain the property of RBG, Kew and must not be taken away. Microscopes for visitors' use can be supplied upon request.

Destructive sampling. The removal of parts of specimens for studies in palynology, anatomy, phytochemistry, etc. (destructive sampling), is not allowed without the specific, prior permission of the Keeper (see Requests for portions of specimens from the Kew Herbarium). Removal of material for DNA extraction is not permitted but aliquots of DNA extracts may be available from the Jodrell Laboratory provided the specimen is suitable. A Material Supply Agreement (MSA) is now required for all samples removed from the Kew Herbarium. Please ask your staff member responsible (or other designated staff member) for further information.

Photography. Visitors wishing to take photographs of specimens must obtain permission to do so. A lighting stand is available on request. Images of specimens may be used for research. However, permission must be obtained from the Board of the Trustees of the RBG, Kew to use such images for publication, or in any other way.

Other Collections. A prior and separate appointment is needed to consult the Mycological, Palynological or Economic Botany Collections.

The Library. If you wish to use the Library, you must first be introduced to the Enquiries Librarian. Please note that the Economic Botany Library, in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, is only open for consultation at limited times. The Archives may only be consulted by appointment with the Archivist. Requests for photocopies must be handled by the Library; you will be asked to sign a copyright declaration and advised on costs.

Telephone. If you need telephone or fax facilities, please ask first. There is a pay-phone in the building (Wing D ground floor corridor).


Keeper (Director) Herbarium, Library, Art & Archives