Small Collections Grant

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Accelerating the digitisation and online publication of type specimens held at Cambridge University Herbarium (CGE)

Lauren M. Gardiner

United Kingdom

Database, Digitally image, Other

Cost: $


IH Code

Cambridge University Herbarium


• Digitise at least 1,000 currently inaccessible type specimens in the CGE collection
• Make these images and records freely available online via the Cambridge Digital Library , GBIF, and JSTOR Plants within a month of the funded portion of the project
• Publicise the work (and funder) via at least one blog and press release
• Accelerate efforts to digitise CGE specimens and make them available online, leveraging funding for future digitisation work, and develop and facilitate collections-based research
• Initiate a regular Summer vacation Herbarium internship to digitise CGE specimens


CGE holds an estimated 50,000 type specimens but was not part of the major herbarium digitisation projects over the last 20 years and very few CGE specimens have ever been digitised*. Several thousand type specimens are curated into red ‘type folders’ and would make an ideal student project to make available relatively quickly.

A successful internal funding application last year has provided a high resolution camera and light-box imaging set-up in the Herbarium, and funds to pay for secure and backed up long-term storage and hosting of a specific ‘Cambridge University Herbarium’ collection within the Cambridge Digital Library ( CGE has recently joined GBIF as a publisher, and will serve all specimen data to GBIF (and type specimens to JSTOR Plants) in the future.

NB. Although CGE is not technically a ‘small collection’ (with an estimated 1.1M specimens, from all over the world, and collected over more than 300 years), it has received very little attention or funding in recent decades. The collection is known to be scientifically and historically important, but is currently poorly known, inaccessible, and has a single member of staff (Dr Gardiner), appointed late 2017 and working on a funding and research strategy for the future of CGE.

* the only significant projects were those to photograph c.900 specimens collected by Charles Darwin on the Voyage of the Beagle and 149 type specimens during the early stages of the African Plants Initiative.


July/August 2020
Student intern to spend 5 weeks:
• Barcoding and imaging type specimens
• Recording basic data into the new CGE database
• Delivering data for at least 1000 specimens* to collaborators at Cambridge Digital Library
• Write and publish at least one blog for the University of Cambridge Museums and Collections website

September 2020
Dr Gardiner to:
• Ensure all specimen images and records successfully published and freely accessible online at Cambridge Digital Library, in a specific CGE collection
• Publish a press release crediting funder and announcing the release of the images and acceleration of the digitisation of CGE specimens

*min 50 specimens per day, allowing for training, orientation, retrieval and re-filing of specimens, and dealing with minor curatorial queries and repairs needed (checking names, placing detached fragments into new capsules, attaching determination slips, etc). Likely many more specimens will be digitised, and these figures will represent very conservative estimates.

Referee 1:

Yvette Harvey

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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