Whilst researching for my next book, I have gained access to various local museums housing interesting collections where I have long-wanted to get into the vaults & back-of-house. The Herbarium's Collections Manager, Dale, was generous both in time and information. It is affectionately known as the Red Box, a name derived from the boxes that house the mounted specimens stacked so neatly in racks & carefully piled high.
The NSW Herbarium has a signed First Edition copy of Darwin's 'Origin of Species' amongst photographs and specimens found & mounted on Cook's voyage by Banks (the $$$ man) & Solander (the Scientist), Burke & Wills adventurers. After a long chat with Dale covering topics from modern day collecting techniques to borrowing & lending between herbariums & museums & heritage-listed bottles from the Domain (which was once a tip!), I was keen to see the specimens bottled in alcohol! Mostly, I just like the packaging: the old paper labels stuck on the front of the vessels, handwritten & documenting the contents. The glass vessels range from 5cm-40cm in height with varying diameters, many are footed with straight sides & a fitted glass lid. Others appear to be old pickling jars & some of the tiny ones are in flat based test tube shapes with corks fixed in the tops. The glass-topped vessels, although aesthetically appealing, do not hold tight their alcoholic liquid which often evaporates or leaks. Although some are suspended in liquid, others are dry: seeds, pods, spores, leaves, samplings etc.
I am looking forward to my next visit & viewing the moss albums as well as photographs of the original Herbarium in the Botanical Gardens.