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Steere Herbarium
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The new William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, opened in 2002

A New Home for the Steere Herbarium

In a comprehensive, two-year strategic planning process begun in the early 1990s, The New York Botanical Garden developed a Master Plan intended to clarify and document the institution's priorities and commitments for the future. The construction and endowment of a Plant Science Center to allow expansion of the crowded Herbarium and LuEsther T. Mertz Library collections, to store the collections under state-of-the-art environmental conditions, to provide space for their growth, and to provide nine study rooms for scholars visiting the Herbarium and Library emerged as the centerpiece of the Master Plan.

In recognition of this project's status as a national priority, the United States Congress, with leadership from Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Alfonse M. D'Amato, made public funds available through the United States Department of Agriculture. Additional support for the Plant Science Center was received from the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust; Edward P. Bass of the Philecology Trust; Shelby White and Leon Levy; Arthur and Janet Ross; The Starr Foundation; the National Science Foundation (DEB-9710105 for a mobile storage system and for new cabinets; supplement to DBI-9808824 for microscopes and computers for visiting scholars); The Prospect Hill Foundation; The Bank of New York; J. P. Morgan and Co., Incorporated; New York City; and New York State.

Designed by the firm of Polshek and Partners Architects, the Plant Science Center, which has been under construction since the fall of 1997, is a five-story, 70,000-square-foot facility constructed as an addition to the beaux arts-style Museum Building.

Mobile storage system of the Plant Studies CenterRichard Jansen of Richard Jansen Architects (39 West 53 Street, New York, New York) served as Project Architect for Equipment. From his work with several museums, he brought valuable experience with compact storage systems for museum collections. His job was to work with the Herbarium staff to determine the ideal size for each bay (i.e., the number of cabinets in each row and the number of mobile rows per stationary row), to work with the design team to assure that the Plant Science Center met the Herbarium requirements, to work with potential vendors, and to inspect the compact storage system following installation.

William P. Lull of Garrison/Lull, Inc. (Princeton Junction, New Jersey) planned an improved conservation and preservation environment for the Plant Science Center. It was his job to assess current problems with light levels, extreme variation in humidity, and particulate and gaseous contamination. His report provided the basic information used by the design team to plan the proper environmental controls of temperature, humidity, and contaminants and an appropriate fire-suppression system.

New Cabinet in the PoaceaeThe contract for the cabinets and the mobile storage system was awarded in January 1998 to Modern Office Systems (989 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10018), which supplied a Spacesaver Corp. (Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin) mobile storage system and Paramount cabinets built by EPI (Oceanside, New York).

In December 1999, Garden staff members began moving the Herbarium from the Museum Building into the Plant Science Center. By mid-May 2000, the last specimen had been moved to the new Herbarium quarters in the International Plant Science Center. It took 58 Garden staff, interns, and volunteers a total of about 3300 hours to move the entire Herbarium, expand the collections, and prepare new labels for the cabinet doors.

Study room

All specimens are available for on-site study or for loan, and all nine study rooms are available to visiting scholars.

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