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Humanistic Uses of Herbaria

Virtual Webinar
March 19, 2021
11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
This joint colloquium, hosted by the Humanities Institute, New York Botanical Garden, and Dumbarton Oaks in partnership with the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, focuses on the history and contemporary relevance of herbarium collections.

Watch Recording

Herbaria, or collections of dried plants that usually include information about the place and time of their collection and the identity of the collector, have their roots in the sixteenth century and are of vital importance to the study and taxonomy of plants. Recently, they have acquired additional value as tools for tracking biodiversity loss or even as windows into past ecosystems. While their primary purpose is scientific, herbaria also have rich historical and even aesthetic dimensions. This program will focus on the history and relevance of herbarium collections, addressing the contemporary importance of herbaria to science and conservation. Four speakers will explore humanistic angles by engaging with history, the history of the book, art history, and contemporary art, thus placing the discussion at the intersection of the arts and sciences.

Copresented by the NYBG Humanities Institute and the Plant Humanities Initiative at Dumbarton Oaks, in partnership with the NYBG William and Lynda Steere Herbarium.


Vanessa Sellers, host, Director of the Humanities Institute, NYBG: Welcome and Introduction

Barbara M. Thiers, Patricia K. Holmgren Director, William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, Vice President, and Curator of Bryophytes: “History of the Herbarium”

Pamela Soltis, Director of the Biodiversity Institute, University of Florida: “Herbaria as Arks of Evolutionary History and Foundations for Plant Conservation” 

Anatole Tchikine, Curator of Rare Books, Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University, and Co-Investigator, Plant Humanities Initiative: “Herbarium Specimens in the Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Collection

Yota Batsaki, cohost, Executive Director, Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University, and Principal Investigator, Plant Humanities Initiative: “The Apocalyptic Herbarium: Anselm Kiefer’s Secret of the Ferns (2007)