Create your own conference schedule! Click here for full instructions

The Virtual Conference is located at

Abstract Detail

NOT your average specimen!

Schlessman, Mark [1].

Herbarium Specimens as art in Mark Dion’s Universal Collection.

In 2016, specimens from the Vassar College Herbarium (VAS) were part of “Universal Collection,” a cabinet of curiosities style installation by conceptual artist Mark Dion. Known for including scientific materials in his work, Dion spent the spring semester as a writer-in-residence, co-teaching an American Studies / Environmental Studies course titled “From the Natural History Museum to Ecotourism: The Collection of Nature.” To prepare the exhibit, Dion and his students “...delved deeply into the history, ideology, and methodology of collecting practices at Vassar College...” The students decided that herbarium specimens should be included in the exhibit. The sheets chosen were an isotype of Lomatium stebbinsii Schlessman & Constance; mutant clover, carnation and dahlia from the laboratory of Hugo de Vries; and Adiantum ternum “Farleyense” from the University of Massachusetts Durfee Conservatory, annotated as “very possibly original material” from the Farley Hill estate in Barbados. Images and commentaries on the specimens were included in a booklet on the exhibit. There, I briefly explained what an herbarium is, summarized the history of Vassar’s herbarium, and discussed the significance of each herbarium sheet. Not coincidentally, “Universal Collection” also included Alfred Ronner’s “The Botanist,” an 1870s painting of a young woman and her personal herbarium. Helping with the interpretation of that painting, I speculated that many of Vassar’s first students would have been familiar with the concept of an herbarium. While the evidence is anecdotal, I believe that “Universal Collection” increased awareness of our herbarium within the Vassar community. Awareness has also been enhanced by collaboration with our libraries on a recent NSF ADBC PEN grant to digitize the herbarium. Most recently, I’ve been asked to contribute images of herbarium specimens of oak and linden for an exhibit on the myth of Philemon and Baucis.

Log in to add this item to your schedule

Related Links:
Universal Collection booklet as a pdf - see pgs 42-42 & 54-55
Vassar College Hebarium

1 - Vassar College, Biology, Box 187, Vassar College, 124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie, NY, 12204, USA


Presentation Type: Special Sessions
Session: SS1, NOT your average specimen! (Papers)
Location: /
Date: Tuesday, July 20th, 2021
Time: 12:45 PM(EDT)
Number: SS1002
Abstract ID:373
Candidate for Awards:None

Copyright © 2000-2021, Botanical Society of America. All rights reserved