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Preserving and Sharing Knowledge

On-site Facilities

Together, the renowned LuEsther T. Mertz Library and William and Lynda Steere Herbarium make up the world’s greatest and most accessible botanical research collections. Both housed in new facilities that were dedicated on May 1, 2002, they are the foundation for the Garden’s ambitious program of scientific research.

Widely recognized as a resource of international importance, and containing nearly 7 million specimens, the Steere Herbarium is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and among the best curated in the world. No modern floristic treatment or regional assessment of natural plant resources could be developed authoritatively for any part of the Americas without consultation of the Steere Herbarium. All plant groups are represented by specimens from every region of the world. Many of these species may be extinct, and exist only in research collections.

Modern botanists still gather plant cuttings as they have for centuries: placing them between pieces of paper and drying them in a plant press. These specimens are brought back to the Garden, mounted, authoritatively identified, and preserved in the Steere Herbarium. The spacious 5-story facility is designed to protect the specimens from sunlight, humidity, and insects

A repository of centuries of knowledge, The LuEsther T. Mertz Library is one of the world’s largest and most important research libraries concerned with knowledge about the world of plants. Its diverse collections holds irreplaceable materials that date back to the 12th century, as well as electronic resources such as e-journals and searchable databases containing the latest results of research and discoveries in plant science and modern horticultural practice. The Library and its resources serve both as a scholarly resource and a general public information center about plants.

The Mertz Library’s new home increases its storage space by 25 percent and incorporates modern conservation technology to create an ideal environment. It also includes the Shelby White and Leon Levy Reading Room; the Rare Book and Folio Room; and the William D. Rondina and Giovanni Foroni LoFaro Gallery, where, for the first time, treasures from the collections are on public display.

The New York Botanical Garden Press is unrivalled in quality and productivity. Established in 1896, the Press publishes 4,500 pages annually on systematics, economic botany, and conservation, with half authored by Garden scientists. Through its scientific publications, the Garden reaches peers around the world: botanists, conservationists, anthropologists, land-use planners, and professionals in the pharmaceutical and food sciences. Recently, the Press has distributed titles that appeal to a general audience, educating people about plants and increasing the Garden’s visibility.

Online Facilities

The online catalog of the Mertz Library offers researchers, writers, and students worldwide access to its collections. The Garden has now initiated a project to digitize selected rare botanical and horticultural works that have high scholarly value.

To create a digital version of the Steere Herbarium, the Garden invested nearly $10 million to develop the necessary software and protocols. The world’s most sophisticated Virtual Herbarium is now accessible via the Internet, allowing an unlimited number of researchers to draw upon this vast store of data without risking damage to rare and fragile plant specimens. Botanists in the field can expedite their work significantly by accessing the Virtual Herbarium and its ever-growing stores of data and digital images to identify specimens where they find them.

The Virtual Herbarium has become one of the Garden’s greatest contributions to the field of botanical research. It serves to repatriate centuries of botanical specimen data back to their countries of origin, many of which cannot maintain collections of their own. To further aid these sister institutions, the Garden is helping them to establish their own virtual herbaria. Garden staff help to set up a donated system based on the Garden’s field version, then train local staff. The Garden authenticates new data they add, and in some cases hosts the data on its Web site.

For More Information

Steere Herbarium
Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden Press
Virtual Herbarium

To discuss how your contribution can advance our work in conservation, please contact:

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