Historical ’seed lists’ teach researchers about plant collections of the past

- EN - NL

NWO has awarded Utrecht University Botanic Gardens a Museum Grant worth 37.000 euros to digitise their extensive archive of seed lists. The - now still analog - collection of lists forms a valuable source of data, and digitising it allows researchers to discover previously hidden patterns.

The Utrecht University Botanic Gardens have a unique archive of seed lists: records depicting and describing plants that have grown in the garden at a set point in time. Seed lists are offered for exchange between botanic gardens worldwide, and Utrecht’s archive dates back to 1837. It consists of more than twenty thousand seed lists from hundreds of different botanic gardens - each showcasing hundreds of entries.

Historical events and climate change

Utrecht’s seed list archive serves as a valuable source of data. For example, it can provide insights into how species move between different gardens. From this data, we can learn what effect historical events and climate change have had on these movements.

Despite the wealth of information contained within these lists, their fully analog nature has made it difficult to discern patterns within the large amounts of data. In recognition of this, the Botanic Gardens have been awarded an NWO Museum Grant to start digitising their seed lists. This initiative aims to unlock the data concealed within the lists, making it accessible for both research purposes and the general public.