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Call No.: IV C-1.1
Repository: Archives of the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University
Creator: Arnold Arboretum
Title: Arnold Arboretum Plant Accession Records. Early Record Books: Guide.
Quantity: 1 linear feet
Abstract: The Arnold Arboretum's plant-records system is the oldest continuously maintained system of its kind in North America. From the time of its founding, the Arboretum has had a record system that includes a standardized accession number assigned to every plant on the grounds for use in tracking its name and origin. Today accession records are maintained on BG-BASE™ a database linked to a mapping program that shows the location of each plant on a series of maps.
The Arnold Arboretum's plant-records system is the oldest continuously maintained system of its kind in North America. From the time of its founding, the Arboretum has had a record system that includes a standardized accession number assigned to every plant on the grounds for use in tracking its name and origin. The initial system of recording plant accessions began in 1874 and was created by Jackson Thornton Dawson, the Arboretum's first plant propagator. The records for these incoming plants included an assigned base number, Latin binomial, provenance, date and form received such as seed, graft, or plant.Dawson recorded this information in a series of books arranged by alphabetical, numerical, or phylogenetic order making it difficult to determine when some of these books were begun. For the most part the entries in phylogenetic order follow the Bentham and Hooker classification system for flowering plants that had been established for the arrangement of the living collections. One of those arranged in phylogenetic order may have been an inventory of plants already present in the collections and could have been intended to accompany the maps that documented the placement of trees planted in the systematic arrangement. The first map that documented tree placement was made in 1887 by landscape architect Henry Sargent Codman, a partner in Frederick Law Olmsted's firm, and a nephew of Charles Sprague Sargent, the Arboretum's first director.The numbering system Dawson used, in which each new taxon added to the collection was assigned a base number from which the numbers assigned to subsequent accessions of the same taxon were derived, suggests that these were inventory numbers rather than accession numbers as used in our current system. There may also have been a parallel record system on cards that recorded all material received.As the collection grew, so did the quantity of accessions representing the same taxon, and the use of the same base number for genetically unrelated accessions invited error and misinterpretation. It became clear that the system required a change, so a large proportion of the collection was renumbered: the first incoming accession of a taxon retained its number, but later accessions of the same taxon were assigned new numbers. Vegetative repropagations of material already in the collection continued to follow the suffix system, each bearing a number derived from either the original or the new base number assigned to the accession from which it had been propagated.This initial system remained cumbersome, and in 1916, when William Judd assumed the post of plant propagator, he initiated a new system, assigning a year-coded number that consisted of a sequential number with an appended year code to each accession received.Some additional but limited information about early plant accessions and planting practices can also be found in the Arboretum's early Expense Journals. Please see ARCHIVES I C-1.1Today accession records are maintained on BG-BASE™ a database linked to a mapping program that shows the location of each plant on a series of maps. The Arnold Arboretum's living collections database, BG-BASE™, is online at http://www.arboretum.harvard.edu/plants/inventory.html and can be searched by entering one or more words from the scientific or common name.
The Arnold Arboretum Plant Accession Records Early Record Books collection is organized in 1 series:
- Series: I. Early Record Books
This collection contains the earliest records of the Arnold Arboretum's plant record system that includes a standardized accession number assigned to every plant on the grounds for use in tracking its name and origin. Some of the books are quite brittle and must be handled with extreme care. Gloves must be worn. Photocopying will be at the discretion of the Library staff.
Current version of this finding aid is available at the Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.