Thursday, March 13, 2014

52 Photos Project: Where I Would Take You

When 52 Photos Project put up "Where I Would Take You" I confess, I thought of one particular spot.  I pass it every time I go to the Union Street Farmer's Market (which has not been in Union Street for years now, feel free to interpret that as you will), because I cannot parallel park, I just cannot do it & so I park in the little metered lot at the west end of SE 1st Avenue.  & someday I ill take you there, but this morning I revised to a place I actually have taken people, if they have showed the slightest bit of interest or they are my mother:  The University of Florida Herbarium.

A herbarium, in broad strokes, is to plant specimens what a library is to books.  That's it really, the basic definition of an herbarium. 

I began by helping catalog already existing specimen for the synoptic collection.  Sometimes this cataloging meant removing the plants, roots, dirt & all from the newspaper the collector had placed them in, mounting them on cardstock with label (provided label-I never do identification).  Later, I would take all the mounted specimens & enter them into a very basic database.  The end result as a simple collection that could be used to train anyone on how to handle specimens (me included) & what to expect in general. 

Nowadays I log wood.  It is more exciting than you might think (it would have to be, I know).  But there isn't much to say about it really.  I pull out index cards (yes, index cards) double check the specimen (usually a block of wood) is there. If it is, I enter it into a database file (from which a searchable data base will be built....later) & go to the next card.  At the end of my shift, or whenever I start to feel cramped, I take the pile of cards with MIA specimens & go a-hunting.  The detail details are here, if you are really curious. 

As I do this, I am merging -in a data sort of way- several collections together.  They already co-exist in the room, but now it is possible to look at a list of all the specimens in a single searchable place.  This is a first for many of these, which include, among other things, woods from pre-Hiroshima Japan.  I have also been given general access to a lot of other material, & used them as quilt subjects.  Don't worry, the wood quilt is still on the drawing board but you can see the little gem magnolia, the Victoria water lily & a sampling from the Floristic Inventory of the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, if you wish.

This is my (shared) work space at the herbarium.  It is very cramped but it turns out I am the opposite of claustrophobic.  No, not agoraphobic but I prefer close quarters.  High walls, narrow channels & the smell of old paper do not bother me one bit.  I wasn't kidding about the index cards, there is an hours worth of work sitting right there.  The mirror is so I can check drawers overhead without pulling them all the way out.  With a flashlight in my teeth, I can bounce light into the back of a cabinet another handy technique.  Drawers of wood specimens are very heavy & can be unwieldy & confirming the presence of a specimen without pulling everything over on myself is the best way (but not alas the only way).

Last of all, here are the cabinets themselves.  You can see the weight of the wood in them pulling them slowly apart. 

If you came here & wanted to see something you could not see anywhere else in the world (almost), this is where I would take you.

No comments:

Post a Comment