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Fragile Science

Temperature and humidity control in herbaria are vital to the survival of the specimens. High temperature and high humidity will invite mold to germinate, insects to swarm and thrive, and specimens to age more quickly. Low humidity will dry paper and specimens, making them brittle. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity cause further damage to the specimens. The comfort level for humans and that of botanical specimens differ, and finding a reasonable compromise is difficult. Low temperatures are better for specimens, yet when curators work in the same environment, the environment must meet their needs as well.

These materials were housed in older cabinets, which have become warped over years of temperature and humidity fluctuations, allowing soot and dust to contaminate the items within.

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Last updated September 2011. Send comments, corrections, or updates to: ldecesare@oeb.harvard.edu
Copyright 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College

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