The Broughton herbarium
Whilst working at the National Museum of Wales I specialised in botanical conservation. In 2014 I set up my business Pure Conservation and this was my first contract. The Broughton herbarium consists of 4 remaining bound volumes of dried and pressed plant specimens. These were collected by Dr Arthur Broughton in the 1700s. He collected from the Bristol area when he was fit and working and then later he travelled to Jamaica for health reasons, where he collected 3 more volumes of Jamaican flora. This collection was donated to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. The bindings were badly damaged as the leather was sheep skin, which has little strength and the volumes were no longer protecting the valuable contents. I was asked to conserve the collection and provide better access to the important and scientifically significant specimens within.
Prior to any conservation work being undertaken, each page of each volume was digitised. Some of these images were selected to provide an ebook of the British and Jamaican specimens (see links below) . Every specimen was heavily glued with animal glue. This had to be humidified so that the specimens could be carefully removed from the original bindings. Animal glue is actually the ideal material to preserve plant specimens. After c. 300 years these specimens were in excellent condition. Once cleaned of excess glue, these were remounted onto archival herbarium sheets. I only use gelatine as an adhesive. This is preferable to wheat starch paste and methyl cellulose glue which is the general ‘go to’ choice of most conservators but it is actually damaging to the plant tissue. The reason for removing the specimens from the bindings and re-mounting was to improve accessibility, increase research potential and to finally have the collection physically incorporated into the Bristol Museums herbarium. Each specimen had its original data label imaged and transferred to the new mount sheet.
This project was funded by PRISM and the collection has been increasingly used and accessed for research projects and initiated a study tour to Jamaica. The interest in this collection continues to increase which to me means this has been a very successful project. The complete conservation project is soon to be published online by the Museum Association of the Caribbean called Caribbean Museums.
Please click on the link to view the ebooks