Small Collections Grant

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Save Her Specimens: Restoring Historical Specimens in the Olga Lakela Herbarium (DUL)

Dr. Amanda Grusz

United States of America


Cost: $


IH Code

University of Minnesota Duluth / Olga Lakela Herbarium


The ‘Save Her Specimens’ project targets the restoration of fragile historical specimens housed in the Olga Lakela Herbarium (DUL) at the University of Minnesota Duluth (Duluth, MN, USA). Specifically, funds requested will be used to purchase high quality archival herbarium paper for reinforcing specimens that were originally mounted on flimsy, non-archival paper by Dr. Olga Lakela in the early to middle 19th century. Support from an IAPT Small Collections Grant will allow us to restore ~2,000 high-priority, at-risk specimens, thereby preserving them for long-term study.


The Olga Lakela Herbarium (DUL) was founded in 1935 by Dr. Olga Lakela (1890–1980) and currently houses >55,000 botanical specimens from the northern USA and Canada. DUL is the second largest herbarium in Minnesota and is notable for its holdings of plant species at the northern/southern extent of their geographic ranges (from temperate and boreal forests, respectively), including 32 nomenclatural type specimens. The herbarium is sustained by a small endowment, generously donated by Dr. Lakela, but otherwise relies on state, institutional, and private donations for support. These contributions allow DUL to maintain a Herbarium Director (Dr. Amanda Grusz), one part-time staff member (Gretchen Meier), and multiple undergraduate work-study students. Currently, with funding from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, DUL staff and volunteers are digitizing and imaging the entire herbarium collection (est. completion, Spring 2021); these data will ultimately be made publicly available via the online Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas ( Throughout the digitization process, we have been tracking fragile historical specimens that are desperately in need of structural reinforcement and we are seeking funds from multiple sources to support their structural restoration. With an IAPT Small Collections Grant, we can reinforce ~2,000 high-priority historical specimens, thereby making them available for research for generations to come.


The 'Save Her Specimens' project is an ongoing effort, with >20,000 specimens in need of restoration or reinforcement. Funds from an IAPT Small Collections Grant will be used to restore ~2,000 specimens during the 2020–2021 academic year. Beginning Summer 2020, herbarium staff (Gretchen Meier) and DUL mounting technicians will be trained to restore the historical specimens, which will be reinforced and/or re-mounted on new archival sheets using standard archival techniques. Currently, DUL volunteers mount ~10–20 new accessions each week; at this rate, we expect our volunteers to mount roughly 1,000 specimens throughout the duration of the IAPT grant. Support is requested to defer the cost of archival herbarium paper and additional restoration technicians (e.g. work-study students); the remainder will be paid for through the Olga Lakela Herbarium endowment.

Referee 1:

Eric Schuettpelz

Referee 2:

Referee name

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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