Senckenberg Research Institute and Museum, Frankfurt

Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem


TDWG 2000: Digitising Biological Collections
Taxonomic Databases Working Group, 16th Annual Meeting
Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt, Germany, November 10-12, 2000


Gerald F. Guala*

Lessons from the Virtual Herbarium

* Keeper of the Herbarium, Fairchild Tropical Garden Research Center, 11935 Old Cutler Rd., Miami, FL 33156 USA.


The Fairchild Tropical Garden is building the first truly virtual herbarium on the web at ( Unlike other herbaria that may be putting up text-only databases or selections of type photos, we are providing an integrated text database of ALL of our specimens with a high resolution photo of the complete specimen and a high resolution scan of the label. This allows researchers to gather distribution data and check identifications on the WWW at a greatly reduced cost and effort. It already contains more than 40,000 specimens including all of our Cycad, Palm  and Florida specimens and is expanding rapidly. The resource has been built using a simple, efficient and streamlined process that employs inexpensive and widely available hardware and widely compatible software. We have also designed the software and data entry protocol specifically for unskilled volunteer labour with automatic error checking and constrained and very simple data entry procedures. Specimens are geocoded by volunteers in remote localities over the WWW and automatically checked for reasonable accuracy based on independently entered data. Several key lessons have been learned through the building of this resource and they will be shared with audience. 

Highlights include error checking and avoidance, personnel management, ghosts of botanists past, ghosts of herbarium workers past, getting the data to the web, getting the data checked, distributed data entry and error checking, protecting sensitive data and geocoding on the web.


TDWG | Participants | Presentations | Senckenberg Museum | BGBM Biodiversity Informatics

This meeting was co-sponsored by the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) 

Page editor: W. Berendsohn, BGBM 2000.