Type Collections

Rob Huxley rh at NHM.AC.UK
Mon Dec 18 17:05:52 CST 1995

Here at  the Natural History Museum, London (BM)  we do not in
general separate any  types from the main herbaria. The exceptions
being  certain important historical collections which are also
particularly rich in types e.g.  Acharius, Sloane, Clayton, Clifford  etc..

However, the debate as to whether to separate or not rears its head
now and again. As there are  valid arguments in favour of
both separating and not, we opt for the "if it isn't broken don't mend
it" philosophy." When we move to a  new building then we may
reconsider but at present the question must be would the
considerable work involved in separating types  be justified by the

Amongst the advantages of retaining types in the main series are:

1. Only one part of the herbarium need be visited to obtain most
material  of a taxon.

2.  As types are  being listed on computer, it will be relatively
simple to track down the current location of a type by

3. It avoids "putting all your eggs in one basket". Should disaster hit
part of the herbarium  only a percentage of types would be lost. A
direct hit on a separate type collection would be catastrophic.
Provision of a water/fire/bomb proof (and expensive) strong room
would presumably  go some way towards alleviating this

4. There is a large percentage in some areas of the herbaria of
"hidden types"  i.e. unannotated. Workers may assume that
separate type collections are complete and valuable material may
remain unexamined.

I would be interested in the views of others on this.

Dr Rob Huxley
Head of Curation Division
Department of Botany,
The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
Phone 171-938-8823
Fax   171-938-9260
INTERNET rh at nhm.ac.uk


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