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Australian Virtual Herbarium (project completed 2006)

Databasing and imaging of Kew's Australian type and selected historical specimens

The type of Goodenia bellidifolia, collected in Botany Bay, NSW by I.E. Smith.

A major corporate goal for Kew is to database and image type specimens in the Herbarium. We are now making standardised specimen data and images easily accessible in electronic form to a wide range of stakeholders, especially in the biodiverse countries that are remote from Kew. This will ensure the longevity of our specimens by reducing the need to handle them and/or send them out on loan. It will also ensure effective sharing of data in an appropriate manner.

Australia has a vascular flora of about 20,000 species.  Of these, 8,125 had been described by the completion of Bentham's Flora Australiensis (1863-1878), written at Kew, and of this group, comprising more than a third of the current total taxa, most have Type material of some kind in Kew.  These include collections by R. Brown, J. Banks & D. Solander, J. D. Hooker, A. & R. Cunningham, R. C. Gunn, J. Milligan, C. Stuart, G. Caley, F. Mueller, J. Drummond, J. MacGillivray, T. Mitchell, A. F. Oldfield, G. Maxwell, L. Leichhardt, B. Bynoe, C. Fraser, H. Beckler, H. H. Behr, W. Baxter, J. Dallachy and many more.  Taxa described later are also represented to a lesser extent in Kew.  For many taxa there are multiple type specimens in Kew (holotypes, isotypes, syntypes and lectotypes), and many associated historical collections (e.g. non-type specimens cited by Bentham, 1863-1878), vital for interpretation of early botanical works.

The project commenced in 2004 and aims to have 6,000 of Kew's Australian types and selected historical specimens databased and imaged by December 2006. 4,000 had been completed by December 2005. The selection of the specimens has been made by Kew's Australian Botanical Liaison Officer, and the data capture is partly funded from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). At Kew, the imaging work has been undertaken by project and core staff, while the database is prepared from the images sent to Australia. Beyond 2006 we aim to continue the work through a mixture of core-funded staff and dedicated project staff from non-core funding.

The focus for the project has been on the digitisation of specimens relevant for botanical research in Australia. The focus families have been Goodeniaceae, Leguminosae and Myrtaceae (Eucalyptus).  The data will be made available as part of the rapidly developing Australia's Virtual Herbarium (AVH) project with images delivered via the Australian Plant Name Index (APNI).  Kew specimen data will be available online via Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.  Through national nodes data will be made available to GBIF's DIGIT (Digitisation of Natural History Collections) programme.

Project duration: 2004-2006

Project partners and collaborators

AustraliaCentre for Plant Diversity Research, Canberra

Project funders


Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Project team

HerbariumEdgley César, Alex George, Alan Paton, Juliet Wege, Daniela Zappi
ISDMarion Crick, Mark Jackson, Antonella Linguanti, John Wall


Science Teams: 
Project Leader: