How to arrange a new Herbarium?

Mary Barkworth Mary at BIOLOGY.USU.EDU
Tue Jan 29 11:28:16 CST 2002

I agree completely with Doug. The arrangement is alphabetical here, and
students think of the families as completely separate entities.  Work
study students are capable of looking up a table to find out where to
file specimens; with time they might even begin to learn that a few of
the families that people think of as 'belonging together' (any criteria)
you like.  

In this part of the world, we now have a lot of people who have learned
about grasses using completely artificial keys, and arrangement of taxa
in floras and herbaria (the arrangement being alphabetical). They find
it difficult to understand the groups currently recognized by grass
taxonomists (not impossible); people familiar with the old
Bentham/Hackel classification learn the current treatment(s) much more
readily - because it involves redistributing chunks of the family.  

I honestly believe we do students, and ourselves, a great disservice by
using the alphabet. We deny students the opportunity of what I call free
learning - picking up information about perceived relationships
incidentally to working on something else.  Students CAN learn; let us
help them do so. Make more charts indicating the filing arrangement.
Yes, it is probably not quite as efficient for filing, but what are we
trying to convey? That above the level of family there is no perception
of relationship?  If so, let us use the alphabet.  

one last comment: It is hard to evaluate how much you gained from
something you had to learn earlier. Personally, I think I spent far too
long learning Latin (it was required). What I cannot tell you is how
useful it has been to me. I take my knowledge for granted.  Are we
taking for granted knowledge about groups that we acquired, in part,
through using non-alphabetical herbaria and non-alphabetical floras. I
think we are.  


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