Widening access to Oxford's botanical treasure troves

Thousands of rare and scientifically valuable plant specimens are to be digitised, thanks to a significant gift from Mr Clive Gillmore.

The University of Oxford's Herbaria lie at the very heart of the Department of Plant Sciences. Accredited with museum status, the Herbaria unite more than a million pressed, dried plant specimens from every corner of the globe, and represent almost 400 years of plant sciences research.

Originally created for the study of plant taxonomy, today the Herbaria's collections provide a rich resource for contemporary scientific investigation. These specimens are central to initiatives to catalogue plant life on Earth, understand how plant diversity evolved, exploit plant variation for food security and economic development, and secure the future of global plant biodiversity.

Despite their enormous research and teaching value, however, only a small fraction of the collections has been catalogued in digital form. Digitisation is a painstaking and costly process, and urgent investment is needed in order to make the remaining specimens available online.

Mr Gillmore's generous commitment will enable Oxford to make significant progress towards this ambitious goal. His gift will support the digitisation of three parts of the Herbaria's botanical collections: the pre-1796 collection, which includes the original 1660 herbarium put together by Bobart the Elder; Henry Fielding's African collection; and Fielding's South American collection.

Professor Stephen Harris, Druce Curator of the Oxford University Herbaria, says: 'Mr Gillmore's support will enable us to make unique, scientifically important specimens available to researchers from around the world. Digitisation is about securing the past and protecting the future of invaluable research and teaching resources. Moreover, digitisation will be a catalyst for new ideas and investigations. We are very grateful to Mr Gillmore for this gift.'

Support the digitisation of the Herbaria here.