Tuesday 13 March 2012

A Welcome from the Linnean Society of London

The Linnean Society of London is delighted to be part of the JISC-funded project “Enhancing the Linnean Collections Online” in partnership with ULCC. As the Deputy Librarian handling many of the day-to-day enquiries about the Online Collections, I am particularly pleased to be involved together with the Librarian and our IT Consultant.

This steadily growing online resource is of great importance for scientists and researchers world-wide. The Society is especially keen to conduct a formal user and stakeholder needs assessment and feedback exercise. We are interested in how we can improve ease of use and navigation for our regular users, as well as promote and tailor the Linnean Online Collections to new user groups – especially in an educational context.

The Linnaean Collections include the specimens of plants, fish, shells and insects acquired from the widow of Carl Linnaeus in 1784 by Sir James Edward Smith, founder and first President of the Linnean Society. They also include the library of Linnaeus, as well as his letters and manuscripts.

In his publications, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) provided a concise, usable classification system of all the world's plants and animals as then known. Some of his works in particular have also been accepted by international agreement as the official starting point for modern nomenclature.

This confers a high scientific importance on the specimens used by Linnaeus for their preparation, many of which are now treasured by the Linnean Society.
These collections are one of the foundation stones of modern Biology.

Apart from their scientific merits, the specimens are also beautiful and fascinating. Marvel at the giant horns of a Hercules Beetle. Admire the deep blue colour of a Delphinium flower collected and pressed over 200 years ago. Discover the eerie Death's-head Hawk Moth (Acherontia atropos L.; image © The Linnean Society of London) made famous through the book and film "The Silence of the Lambs". All available online in zoomable, high-resolution images.

In addition to the collections already online, we look forward to adding other important source material such as Linnaeus’ Annotated Library and James Edward Smith’s Herbarium and correspondence.

“Nomina si nescis, perit et cognitio rerum” - “If you do not know the names of things, the knowledge of them is lost too” (Carl Linnaeus, from Philosophia botanica (1751) p.158 under VII Nomina)
Following in Linnaeus’ footsteps, we are undertaking this project to organise knowledge in the best possible way, so that it can be used and preserved for many centuries to come.


  1. Hello Elaine,
    I just found this post via Twitter and was most interested to read about the online Project. Last November, when In London on a Research Trip from Australia, I had a fascinating time seeing the Collections, Llbrary and indeed being introduced to all this by your kind self.
    I've shown images taken that day at the Linnean Society on a Slide presentation of my Kew MSB Residency and found many curious to know more of the Museum's work and collections. The pressed fish were much commented on and the signature plant of Linnaeus.
    The visit was a memorable part of the trip and I thank you Elaine for the welcome I received and the stores so well told!
    My best wishes,

  2. Dear Sophie - Thank you very much! I remember your visit and your own fascinating project very well. It is a wonderful example of how our collections can inspire, and contribute to shaping the way we think about science, nature and art.

    Your website is a wonderful testimony of this - it includes your project 'Homage to the Seed' and an account of your UK trip last year (with a lovely account of your visit to the Linnean Society!).


    Thanks again and all good wishes for your continuing work and projects - Elaine