database for herbarium sought

David Abbott abbott at
Wed Sep 28 14:58:00 EST 1994

In <36c6ug$m37 at>, KH8324 at CONRAD.APPSTATE.EDU (Heafner, Kerry Donald         ) writes:
>We at Appalachian State University are looking to put our herbarium on
>database.  We realize this is a monolithic task but we feel our herbarium is
>too useful to just sit here.  I would be interested in hearing from anyone
>out there who can suggest some databse programs to do this with.  We have
>approximately 1600 vascular plant vouchers plus a fairly extensive bryophyte
>collection.  If anyone can suggest how we might get started, please respond
>to this post or send e-mail to:

        I don't work in a herbarium but here at Cancer Imaging we maintain
databases on many slides (microscope slides containing cell samples).
It's hard to get a feel for your project but from my experience I don't think 
your's is as "monolithic" as you think.  We often have to generate from scratch 
databases of a few thousand records with histories, experimental info etc.  The 
work isn't that onerous but it can be tedious especially if it mostly has to be
hand entered.  One advantage that you may or may not have is that  many of
us are quite computer literate.  This can help when quick fixes are needed.
      We work mostly with Paradox for Windows under OS/2.  It's hardly
perfect but it is a reasonable choice.
        As for getting started,  think and discuss what it is you want
to do with your database (obvious !!) before starting.  Define all fields
if possible.  But, don't become fixated on your original "game plan".  It
is almost certain that many changes and alterations will have to be made
as you begin to actually enter data and when you use the data.
As  for entering data, well "a journey of a thousand miles begins with one
footstep ..." .  And don't forget to define who the end user will be.  A database
is most useful if their are people using it frequently, if not then people quickly forget
about its existence and how to use it efficiently.  If it is off campus or
Internet type users then you'll have to advertise its existence.  In our lab,
the databases are for our own use and we tend to dedicate a single computer
to a database or databases.  Our databases are rarely user-friendly but are
very useful.
       MOST IMPORTANT: you must assign someone the job of data manager.
A database that has no one responsible for it and is not regularly maintained
will quickly become useless.

     Very general info but I hope it's useful.
Vancouver BC

More information about the Plantbio mailing list