How to Package Specimens

A Method for Packaging Herbarium Specimens for Shipment

One responsibility of herbaria personnel is the packaging and shipping of loan material and exchange specimens to other institutions. The shipping of loans and exchanges is necessary but can be damaging to valuable herbarium specimens. Taking appropriate care in packaging specimens will help minimize damage and lengthen the life and value of herbarium specimens.

What follows is an outline of best-practices one may follow when preparing herbarium specimens for shipment. These procedures are generalized for packaging specimens that are shipped within the United States and do not address some of the additional considerations needed when packaging specimens for international shipping. This is only a general outline and adaptations may be necessary according to the established protocols and practices of your respective herbarium.

For Loans or Exchanges:

1- Pull requested loan or exchange material from herbarium cabinets and follow the herbarium protocol for documenting and recording which specimens are being shipped and where.

2- Individually place each herbarium sheet or specimen inside a fold of paper. For unmounted exchange material make sure to include the typed label. Individually wrapped specimens add a layer of padding and catch fragmented plant material that may break loose during shipment. Ideally a species folder or unprinted newspaper is used for this purpose but printed newspaper is also commonly used.

3- Depending on the number and thickness of specimens being packaged, the stack will often appear uneven or lopsided with the folded side being higher than the “open” side of newspaper. This is often more pronounced with unmounted specimens. If necessary, level the stack by rotating some portion of specimens by 180 degrees and restack. A level stack will be much easier to box up later. Sometimes it takes rotating only a few sheets of particularly bulky specimens to achieve a level and balanced stack.

4- Depending on the height of your stack divide the specimens into manageable piles of 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm) in height. Place each subdivided pile between two pieces of corrugated cardboard. Using string or cotton binding tape tie the whole bundle on the long dimension in at least two places, usually about 2-3 inches in from the short dimension of the cardboards. Apply some pressure when tying bundles, to snug the specimens, but not too much to damage them.

5- As an added protection, each bundle may be wrapped in brown butcher paper or Kraft-type paper before being placed in a box for shipping. Place completely wrapped bundles in an appropriately sized box, making sure to fill any gaps with packaging peanuts or wadded newspaper to prevent bundles from sliding around inside the box. Insert copies of shipping notices and an extra address label then tape the box securely with strapping tape. Label the outside of the box and it is ready to be sent.

Compiled by:
Curtis J. Hansen, Curator
Freeman Herbarium (AUA)
101 Life Sciences Bldg.
Auburn University
Auburn, AL 36849
Phone 334-844-1630
Fax 334-844-1645

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