Collections are global, intergenerational, cultural collaborations. As one node, in an international herbarium network, Oxford University Herbaria is a unique, scientific collection of dried plants and botanical books, manuscripts and artwork. 

Collections are being investigated in manners never conceived by their originators. Images of objects in collections are spread faster than the speed of thought. Technology helps mine collection data as never before. Worldwide, specialist collections, assembled for particular users, are welcoming the scrutiny of non-specialists. 

Yet what of the collectors, artists and authors who built the collections, or the technicians who looked after them? Their individual contributions perhaps too often forgotten, overshadowed or never acknowledged; lost in the gaps among objects. 

Modern users ask challenging questions of traditional collections. Those questions force curators to review their perceptions of objects, and their relationships with them. Gem’s reactions to Oxford University Herbaria has begun to reveal some of the stories hidden behind familiar objects.

Professor Stephen A. Harris, Druce Curator of Oxford University Herbaria, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford

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