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Steere Herbarium

Virtual Herbarium

Tips for Effective Loan Requests

Regulations for Physical Loans

Destructive Sampling Policy

An Appeal for the Annotation of Types

Virtual Herbarium Access

Loan of Herbarium Specimens

Sharing the data conserved in The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium has been  central to our mission since the founding of the institution. During most of the past century, researchers have obtained specimen data by visiting the herbarium or through specimen loans.  Since the advent of The New York Botanical Garden Virtual Herbarium in 1997, users now have access to digitized data for a small (12%) but steadily increasing proportion of the collection.  The advantages of electronic consultation are that results are instantaneous and that data can be retrieved by multiple criteria. Specimen images are of sufficient quality to permit analysis of taxonomic features that can be seen with a handlens or low-power dissecting microscope.

Because digitized specimens are sometimes acceptable substitutes for physical specimens for some studies, we have decided to formalize the procedure for digitization of specimens on request, and to rename it the Virtual Herbarium Loan Program. Our objective is to standardize the method for providing these data for more efficient fulfillment of such requests, better integration of this activity into other data capture projects currently underway, and also better tracking of the use of the collections. 

Requesting a Loan  
To request a loan from The William and Lynda Steere Herbarium New YorkBotanical Garden, please submit a request via email to the Director of the Herbarium, Dr. Barbara M. Thiers ( An informative and concise loan request is key to its successful fulfillment. Please see Tips for Effective Loan Requests
The first step in responding to a loan request will be to determine whether or not we have the specimens requested. If we do not have the requested specimens, we will notify the requestor immediately via email.

All incoming requests will be evaluated to determine whether a physical loan or Virtual Herbarium Loan is most appropriate. The factors that will influence the decision include:

  • Professional affiliation of borrower. Physical loans are made only to herbaria that are listed in Index Herbariorum and are willing to comply with our Regulations for Physical Specimen Loans.
  • Type of research project. Projects that require destructive sampling of specimens are clearly not appropriate for Virtual Herbarium loans, whereas requests for specimens for the purposes of comparing label data or annotation usually do not require the physical specimen.
  • Group of plants requested. Specimens of taxa whose transport is regulated by federal or international law cannot be sent to institutions lacking proper permission to receive them. These include any taxon listed on any of the CITES Appendicesor on the Federal Noxious Weeds list. 
  • User preference. If the potential borrower has preference as to the type of loan, this should be indicated in the request.

  • Providing the Loan 

    Virtual Herbarium Loans: When the requested specimens have been digitized, the borrower will receive an email notifying him/her that the specimens are available for viewing or download. The email will include a number code and a link to the Virtual Herbarium Loan Access. Enter this code in the query box to initiate the search and view the specimen records and images.

    Physical Specimen Loans: Shipping invoices will be sent separately when the loan is mailed. When the loan is received, the contents should be verified, and the acknowledgement copy of the invoice returned immediately.  Please refer to Regulations for Physical Specimen Loans for the proper handling and documentation of specimens.

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