Apr 122012

With thanks to Jo Milne.

Several of Scotland’s most significant collections of insects and plants can now be viewed online for the first time, after painstaking work by museum staff at the University of Aberdeen to catalogue more than 60,000 bugs and dried plants over the last year.

The University’s Zoology Museum is home to insect collections of national importance, such as the James Duncan collection of c. 10,000 British moths and butterflies, representing around 750 different species, and an almost complete array of macro-moths in Britain.

The Herbarium is one of just two major herbaria in Scotland; the other being the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.  University staff  have now completed cataloguing type specimens in the Thailand plant collection, polar plants and several thousand British mosses and lichens.  The Thai collection is regarded as the second most important collection of its kind in the world.

The project to make the records available online was funded by the Museums Galleries Scotland Recognition Fund to increase public access to these important collections. Thousands of records can now be found and searched online at www.abdn.ac.uk/museums.

Shona Elliott, a curator at the University of Aberdeen who co-led the project, said:

“The data for most of our insects and herbarium specimens could only be seen on their accompanying labels in the museum stores prior to the project, so we’ve taken a big step forward getting so many records online. Numerous users from around the world can now discover the rich variety in our Zoology Museum insect collection, and learn about our internationally important Thai types.”

Joanne Orr, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland, said:

“The varied collections in Scotland’s museums reflect centuries of effort to gather, preserve and educate. They all have an important story to tell us about the past, present and future of the nation. The funds we make available to them allows them to care for their collections and find new and exciting ways to tell us these stories.

“We are delighted to see the progress being made by the University of Aberdeen in making their remarkable Herbarium and Zoology collections available to a worldwide audience.”

Project assistants are now starting work on the next Recognition-funded project which will continue the development of on-line access to the University’s Herbarium and Zoology Museum collections.  Amongst the specimens to be catalogued are bird eggs, mammal bones and North American plants.  Their records will be put online near the end of this year.

Museums Galleries Scotland manages the Recognition Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Government.  The Scheme aims to identify, and subsequently support, collections of national significance held in Scotland’s museums and galleries. For more information on the Recognition Scheme, including a list of the Recognised Collections, visit the Museums Galleries Scotland website.