The Arnold Arboretum was recently awarded a $145,000 grant from the Museums for America program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS-MFA) to support the curation of the living collection. Specifically, the 2-year grant enables the Arboretum to capture, steward, and improve access to three sets of archival living collections documentation. Upon completion of the project, the Arboretum will have a comprehensive database of every accessioned plant cultivated for the collection since its founding, as well as a GIS (geographic information system) referencing all historical planting locations since 1938.
Through the IMLS grant, the Arboretum will advance four intertwined initiatives:
- The complete databasing of the Arboretum’s archival accession card file, which comprises approximately 55,000 plant record cards created and annotated from 1872 to 1987.
- A review of all original registration entries made in 53 archival accession books dating from 1872 to 1987. This information will be compared to data recorded from the plant record cards, to identify and resolve gaps and ambiguities across these platforms.
- Scanning and georeferencing 1,784 historic maps of the Arboretum plant collections. This map archive spans 1938 to 1988 and documents the growth and development of the living collection and inventories other cultural resources (e.g., paths, roads, benches) through that period.
- Developing a comprehensive, searchable online inventory of all accessions ever grown at the Arboretum, both extant and historic. This will be a valuable resource for other institutions who may have received plants from the Arboretum in the past and wish to obtain additional documentation about them.
“This project is a critical part of our long-range plan to improve the curation of the Living Collections,” says Michael Dosmann, Curator of Living Collections and principal investigator for the grant. “On a daily basis, my staff and I, as well as other members of the Arboretum community, are physically accessing these valuable archives. Completely integrating this information into our plant records database (BG-Base) and our GIS will greatly expand access and make our work more efficient, while helping to preserve our valuable archival objects by eliminating the need to physically handle them.”
The Institute of Museum and Library Services provides federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. Grants are awarded pursuant with its mission to foster the work of libraries and museums to connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development.