David Harris

Herbarium Curator

DavidMy favourite thing in the Herbarium is the labels on the cabinets. They tell us what is in the cabinet and where we are in the taxonomic sequence. When visiting other herbaria I always look at the labels – they are never, ever, as clear, as consistent or as informative, as they are back home in Edinburgh. It is just another example of the amount of careful thought that went into the design of this herbarium in the years leading up to its opening in 1964.





Erzsebet Gyongy

Herbarium Assistant

LizzieMy favourite object in the Herbarium is the tablet. I do loads of laying away [putting specimens away in correct taxonomic order in the cabinets], and the tablet helps me do this more efficiently. I can carry it with me and use it to check specimen details right at the cabinet: I don’t have to go back and forth to another computer. I can see on the tablet if a specimen needs to be imaged or not and can also catch mistakes and avoid mislaying specimens. It is a handy little tool for my job!





Jenny McCutcheon

Herbarium Technician – Plant Specimen Preparation


My favourite thing in the Herbarium is my sponge stippler. This fantastic little tool is perfect for applying archival glue to fragile specimens and for getting good glue coverage on the larger ones without getting messy, gluey fingers!

With the stippler you can control the pressure applied to each specimen and also use a rolling technique to release the glue which really helps to preserve the vast number of varied specimens which arrive in the mounting room.




Kate Eden

Herbarium Technician – Plant Specimen Preparation


My favourite thing in the Herbarium is this photo of a woman mounting plant specimens while her cat sleeps! I have it on the wall behind my desk. I think it captures the quiet, methodical nature of the job, not to mention the sheer volume of work (all those piles of specimens …) At RBGE we aim to mount plant specimens for the Herbarium as soon as possible; those that have to go into a backlog are safely and systematically stored, in boxes recorded in a spreadsheet.





Lesley Scott

Assistant Herbarium Curator Loans

LesleyMy favourite thing in the Herbarium is the large spirit bottle containing the Camomile specimen which has suffered from fasciation (it has a swollen stem due to abnormal growth activity).  It is suspended in a beautiful old jar and has turned the spirit solution a lovely warm yellow colour and we use it for tours of the Herbarium.  It is recognisable as Camomile showing all the flower heads, but most of all I love the fact that it looks like a mutant plant from another world.





Lorna Glancy

Herbarium Technician – Plant Specimen Preparation

LornaMy favourite thing in the Herbarium is my tweezers. I would be lost without them. My job is to mount dried plant material onto archival board to make herbarium specimens. The tweezers are a versatile mounting tool:  they are useful for picking up fragile and brittle plant material, and both the pointed and flat ends are perfect for manipulating the fine paper tapes used to secure the plant material to the sheet.  A lot of effort has gone into collecting these plant specimens from around the globe, and my tweezers help me to handle them with the care they deserve!




Robyn Drinkwater

Digitisation Officer/Technical Developer

RobynMy favourite things in the Herbarium are the barcodes, in particular the long empty strip you get when doing minimal data entry. It’s satisfying to see (and rip off) at the end of a day’s databasing. Each long empty strip shows that several hundred more specimens are ready to be imaged and made available online. Currently around 750,000 (25%) of specimens have been databased.





Sally King

Digitisation Officer/Herbarium Volunteer Coordinator


Choosing a favourite thing from the Herbarium was impossible because it’s such a treasure trove! I chose a sentimental object, my wee Mexican tortoise, a gift from a digitisation team member at Kew Herbarium, where I used to work. He puts a smile on my face and reminds me of where I’ve come from. Without my time at Kew I wouldn’t be working here. I’m so happy to be working at the best Botanic Garden in the UK ;) The world map in the photo is marked out into the geographical regions the herbarium specimens are filed under: Mexico is in Area 14.




Sally Rae

Assistant Curator Bryophytes

SallyRMy favourite thing in the Herbarium is my glue spatula. Rather than being mounted like other plant specimens the small, fragile bryophytes [mosses] are stored in archival paper packets which I glue to the appropriate herbarium sheet at the cabinets. I have used the same spatula for the last 30 odd years. If I find someone using it I will always ask if I can change it for the spare on my trolley which is much stiffer and does not feel right to me. I only have 2 spares and as they are not made any more; when they are gone I will have to retire! (A fact I tell visitors and volunteers when I let them use the spare.)I am very possessive about my spatula!!




Suzanne Cubey

Deputy Herbarium Curator

SuzanneMy favourite thing the Herbarium is my ‘box of tricks’.  It contains all the essentials I need to prepare a specimen for mounting or to annotate a specimen that has been used for research purposes.  I can’t remember where the box came from, I’ve had it so long but it contains secateurs, dissection kit, capsules, and my precious 10 very old, different sized black and white carpological boxes with glass lids to keep all my important labels in.  The Cultivated labels are for the specimens made from plants growing in our truly amazing Living Collection. I like the function of labels  – labels on the herbarium specimen are as equally as important as the plant material itself.



Terry Gilmour

Herbarium Cleaning Operative

TerryMy favourite thing in the Herbarium is the job of cleaning and buffing the floors. It’s a calm, almost meditative job, but an important one. Without regular cleaning dust and plant debris from specimens can build up and provide a hiding place for herbarium beetles which damage the specimens. I report any beetles or larvae I find to Herbarium staff so they can record them and take action if necessary.





Elspeth Haston

Deputy Herbarium Curator

ElspethMy favourite thing in the Herbarium is Grumpy, a herbarium trolley that saw a lot of service in 2006 when we reorganised the three million specimens in the collection. It took us nine weeks, thanks to a team of people and a set of seven trolleys. When moving specimens from one cabinet to another between two floors, the characters of the trolleys became evident and so we named them. Happy was the favourite – running smoothly and turning nicely. Grumpy needed more effort to manoeuvre, but I grew very fond of it! The RGBE Herbarium was the first large herbarium to be organised according to the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification, a system now adopted by many other large herbaria. Grumpy is still in the herbarium, helping us to recurate some of the larger families.