Abstract

The University of Tennessee Herbarium (TENN) presents a case study for modernizing an historic seed collection. TENN staff recently rediscovered the J. K. Underwood Seed Collection (ca. 1931–1964), containing over 700 unique specimens, hidden away in storage. We employed a series of curation actions to modernize the collection and render it useful to researchers. This included physically organizing and digitally indexing the collection, updating scientific names to current taxonomy, storing the specimens in modern archival-quality containers, housing the collection in environmentally-controlled conditions, and increasing accessibility of the collection by photographing specimens and integrating these images into our existing website (tenn.bio.utk.edu). Our efforts also included developing a protocol for adding new accessions to the collection and advertising the utility of the collection as a source of morphological data on seeds for identification, research, and teaching. We also review modern strategies for curating seed collections. Specifically, we emphasize the importance of increasing visibility of collections through visual, digital representations. This expands the utility of collections and fosters global information sharing across disciplines. We present our curation project as a case study that can serve as a model for curating historic seed collections.

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Author notes

Associate Editor.—Mariel Campbell