Digitalising Turkey’s Botanical Heritage with Imagining Futures


31 May 2021

The BIAA is delighted to announce our new collaboration with Imagining Futures through Un/Archived Pasts, an AHRC-GCRF initiative funded by the UKRI led by the University of Exeter, on the Digitalising Turkey’s Botanical Heritage project. 

Imagining Futures aims to preserve archives under threat and create egalitarian archiving practices that allow for the co-existence of multiple narratives of the past, which this project will do.

Mounting specimens on archival acid-free paper @British Institute at Ankara-PH15297 CC BY NC SA 4.0

The Digitalising Turkey’s Botanical Heritage project involves a team of Turkish researchers working with the BIAA to conserve and digitalise a unique and at-risk collection of plant specimens and associated field notes. The BIAA Herbarium contains many plant specimens collected in the 1970s and 1980s by the late Professor Gordon Hillman in the southern Konya plain and the Euphrates region of eastern Turkey. As much of this area is now permanently flooded, the collection is an irreplaceable resource for understanding Turkey’s botanical past. Its international importance is indicated by its inclusion on registers such as Index Herbariorum (index code: BIA).

By collating and digitising collection data and combining it with high-resolution images of individual specimens, we intend to create an open-access digital herbarium of use to students, scholars and the interested public. The value of such digital resources has come sharply into focus during the current pandemic when physical access to collections has been limited. This will be an important teaching and research tool for the country and the region.

Find out more about the Digitalising Turkey’s Botanical Heritage project here

Approximately 90% of the 4,500 plant specimens in the BIAA Herbarium are currently housed in newspaper and thus at risk of deterioration and damage. @British Institute at Ankara-PH15298 CC BY NC SA 4.0
Cleaning, as seen in the above image, as well as mounting all specimens on archival acid-free paper and adding labels in a standardised format will improve preservation and accessibility. @British Institute at Ankara-PH15296 CC BY NC SA 4.0
Handwritten collection notes, such as the above, provide invaluable contextual data for the herbarium specimens. Collating and digitising this data and making it available online alongside high-resolution images of the plants themselves will be an important legacy of this project.

Project Team

Collaboration between Turkish researchers and the BIAA as custodian of the collection is a vital aspect of this initiative. The core team working on this project will be:

Nurdan Atalan Çayırezmez is currently pursuing a PhD in Information and Records Management at Ankara University and the BIAA’s Digital Repository Manager. 

Ilgın Deniz Can is a Botany PhD student at Hacettepe University in Ankara. 

Barış Uğurman is currently studying for an MSc at Ankara University and the BIAA’s Herbarium Assistant.

Gücügür Görkay will be the project’s specialist photographer.

Professor Necmi Aksoy from Düzce University Herbarium and Dr Mark Nesbitt of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, will advise the team.