Small Collections Grant

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African Secrets from the backlog at PO Herbarium: revealing 20th-century African collectors and specimens brought in private botanical missions.

Cristiana Vieira


Database, Digitally image, Process backlog, Ship, Conserve

Cost: $



Museu de História Natural e da Ciência da Universidade do Porto


A. Face the obstacle of not having a digitization unit at PO herbarium room (computer + photographic stand) due to lack of funding for continuous curatorship of a 15,500 African specimens.
B. Catalogue the unofficial collections created during a long period of the 20h century (1912-1970), which sum up to 12192 specimens of plants and 3,308 cryptogamic specimens (algae, fungi, lichens, bryophytes, pteridophytes).
C. D. Promote curatorship, conservation, research, dissemination and educational perspectives, by disclosing the missions, protagonists, and meta-data of specimens.


Since 80% of African specimens deposited in PO Herbarium are not digitally accessible, we intend to digitize a backlog of African specimens collected in various sites across three African countries (São Tomé e Príncipe, Angola e Mozambique). We will:
1. Mount a steady computer and photographic station in the Herbarium lab that is continuously available to photograph and compile into one central database the digital record.
2. Compile specimen’s meta-data - location, data and name of collector available in most of the labels (these collections were created from secondary or opportunistic specimens collected in field surveys and ended up as unpublished material from these three geographies. Some documentation refers to the pertinence of digitizing these collections;
3. Mount, number, and database these irreplaceable specimens to ensure their accessibility to staff and external users (researchers, students, other profiles);
4. Visit other herbaria (LISU) to get acquainted with the contribution of these collectors to other collections and check for duplicates;
5. Send duplicates (much material is available) to KEW and LISU herbaria and receive duplicates from these herbaria in exchange.
6. Contribute with these data to worldwide databases such as GBIF and RainBIO Projects (


1. Phase I (April to December 2020)
Cataloguing and digitization of specimens
• Numbering and inventorying
• Photographing

2. Phase II (January to August 2021)
• Taxonomy analysis of represented species
• Synonym update
• Comparison of taxonomic knowledge of the date of collection
• Analysis of current species’ conservation status

Ecological contextualization of species (August to September 2021)
• Association of species with natural habitat
• Assessment of current species’ relevance at conservation level

3. Phase III (September and October 2021)
Historical context
• Research on botanical missions
• Research on botanists and collectors
• Analysis of the scientific and botanical context in the 20th century

4. Phase IV (November and December 2021)
Database available online
• Database error detection
• Data cleaning and correction
• Publishing Excel data in Darwin Core format

5. Data paper editing and publication (January 2022 to March 2022)
• Paper writing and editing
• Proofreading
• Graphic editing and delivery

Referee 1:

Helena Hespanhol

Referee 2:

Cecília Sérgio

Scoring Rubric

Your name:

Collection Improvement/Maintenance


1.  Contribution to the generation of digital herbarium data (digitization: data entry, setting up database structure, purchasing equipment).

2.  Contribution to enhancing our understanding of the flora by making new herbarium specimens available (processing of backlog).

3.  Contribution to enhancing our understanding of the flora by making new herbarium specimens available (shipping endangered collection to another herbarium).

4. Contribution towards improving conservation status of specimens in herbarium (better folders, protecting covers, mounting paper, labeling, etc.).

This proposal scores:


IAPT community building


5.  Herbarium's potential for success.

6.  Perceived need, extent to which the project will benefit from IAPT funding.
7. Sharing specimens with other herbaria.

This proposal scores:


Broader Impacts

8. The project will yield durable benefits (specimens, digitized metadata, databases, websites).

9. The proposed project involves outreach/mentoring and broad dissemination.

This proposal scores:


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