Collaboration and Connections: Postprints of the AICCM Paper, Books and Photographic Materials Special Interest Group Symposium, Sydney 1-3 April 2004, pp. 99-104
For ten very short months during the years of 1854 to 1855, an Irish marine botanist Dr William Harvey visited the shores of Australia. From Rottnest Island in Western Australia to Newcastle in NSW, Harvey collected some 20,000 seaweed specimens, which he painstakingly identified to species then pressed onto paper. On returning to Ireland, he then set about selling these biological treasures to Museums, Herbaria and wealthy naturalists around the world for the then princely sum of 2 pounds 5 shillings for 100 species. This would have amply paid for his round-the-world expedition. One hundred packages or exsiccatae were thought to have been disseminated each containing anything up to 150-220 species. Four such exsiccatae found their way to the vaults of the State Library on NSW. Two of the exsiccatae were of unmounted specimens wrapped in their original brown paper parcels, while specimens in the other two were stuck to acidic card that were then bound into two albums. Although seaweeds are hardy organisms, the acidic board of the 1800s had long started its systematic destruction of the plants. In an effort to save these scientifically priceless specimens from complete destruction, the National Herbarium of NSW and the State Library of NSW have collaborated in a project to re-house the 1200 individual specimens. This paper discusses the collaborative project between two major institutions, and the work involved in the conservation of these items to allow the preservation of the historical content, whilst providing access of this material for scientific research.