History of the Herbarium

Herbaria and other scientific collections are - in addition to a large library - essential parts of a research institute specializing in taxonomic botany. The fate of such an institute is, therefore, closely linked with the fate of its collections. The destruction of the greater part of the herbarium of the Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem in 1943 was therefore a far-reaching event in the history of this institution. One may think that an historical account of the herbarium of the Botanical Museum could omit its development up to March 1, 1943, because the old holdings were totally destroyed. But, fortunately, this opinion is completely wrong, even if it was - prompted by publications like that of Merrill (1943) - widely circulated during the first decades after World War II (see also Shetler 1969: 707). It was estimated that about one-half million specimens were saved (Sleumer 1949: 173) and among this remaining stock there are at least single specimens from nearly all old collections, especially among the surviving types. I will, therefore, give a short account of the entire history of the Botanical Museum which can be divided into three periods:

  • From the beginning until 1913. - Since Urban (1881, 1909, 1916) has discussed the history of the Botanical Museum up to 1913 in several publications (including comprehensive lists of the collections), this period can be dealt with concisely.
  • 1913 to March 1, 1943. - For the following period up to the destruction of the Herbarium building there is no account of the development of the holdings of the Botanical Museum. A summary will be given based on the annual reports published in the "Notizblatt des Botanischen Gartens zu Berlin-Dahlem".
  • March 2, 1943 to 1987. - In this chapter, the rebuilding of the herbarium is covered.

[Text from P. Hiepko in Englera 7: 219-252, 1987; slightly modified]