Mounting plant specimens has been something I really wanted to have experience of as part of this traineeship and today I got my chance! Felipe Dominguez-Santana, one of the NHM’s plant mounters, had the dubious honour of showing me the ropes (or rather plants) so that I could have a go myself later.
The specimens that Felipe and I were mounting were the same members of the Solanaceae family from Peru that Ranee and I had laid out for mounting on Tuesday.
Felipe showed me the correct way of applying the glue (rather PVA: there definitely wasn’t any animals hurt in the making of this adhesive) and when it is best to remove capsule contents to avoid them being crushed in the press.
The sheets are covered with wax paper (so it doesn’t stick) and a cushion is laid on top ready for pressing. The sheets (usually around three at a time) are then put in the old-fashioned book press and left for around five to ten minutes.
The presses are really effective; but I must admit I occasionally squirmed upon hearing the crunch of a specimen that had become separated from the paper it was glued on.
The final step was to attach straps to parts of the plant which could be prone to becoming detached from the sheet such as thick stems.
If all this was too hard to follow then there’s a short video and further information on the NHM website were Felipe explains the process!
Following my plant mounting adventure, I spent the rest of the morning session in the company of Jovita, Ranee, Jonathan and Edgley sorting some plant specimens into their correct families. This was a great learning experience for me; and led to some heated debates about what the correct plant families were in each case!
The afternoon session was spent scanning herbarium specimens for the Global Plants Initiative (GPI). This is an international project focused on digitization of previously unpublished botanical material. It aims to make these images available to access on JSTOR.
Label information and images of type specimens (see ‘Type specimens’ blog post) are digitalised in order to make this information accessible to all. This will hopefully save on unnecessary loan requests (see Thursday’s blog post).
The HerbScan scanners are not your average scanning equipment. They’re huge and take quite a while to form the required 600 dpi resolution images.
Occasionally, things got a little tricky. For example two sides needed to be scanned and then merged into one if the reverse side had useful information on it. Or the capsule needed to be first scanned closed before the open capsule with contents was scanned and superimposed on top of it. Oh, and of course sometimes it was tricky to work out what the plant was or where it was from!
I think I negotiated the graphology lesson successfully and was looking forward (but feeling a little bit sad at the same time) to my last day at the NHM!