Field of Science

Water, fire, & insects

These are three primary worries of herbarium curators. The collection TPP curates is small, only 50,000 or so specimens.  Some of them date back 200 years, some were collected by famous people, and some are precious records of prior diversity. Basically our herbarium is a teaching facility. Still such collections are irreplaceable so their safety must be insured. Insects have not been a problem for us, and the sealed cases work well. However, the collection is on the first floor of a 4 story building and the infrastructure is crumbling particularly the plumbing. See where this is going? Leaks are quite common, and were even more common, and more noxious, when some chemists lived up stairs. When you turn on the tap in a sink in TPP's lab the water runs brown for quite awhile. Now some of the plumbing is due to be replaced, by necessity, so when maintenance people say there may be some unanticipated leaks while repairs are being made, us herbarium curators sit up and pay attention. Oh, and while fire is a long-shot problem, you have to make certain that water isn't used to put out a fire in the herbarium, and you hope no fire must be put out on the floors above. Water always finds its way down. So during the rest of this week TPP will be fitting some plastic sheeting over the rows of specimen cases to offer some protection should the worst happen. Ironically, while doing this the message arrives telling us that the building will be without water over the Thanksgiving break except maybe for leaks. TPP took some time to show the plumbers what the worry was, and interestingly enough, they were impressed by the age and condition of old specimens, and the size of the collection. The next day a big roll of plastic sheeting arrived.

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