Data Management at a Botanic Garden

The 385-acres of the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) could not be maintained without the work of dedicated staff, hundreds of volunteers, and careful data management. During my residency at CBG, my mentor, Leora Siegel, arranged an introductory meeting with the head of the Living Plant Documentation, Boyce Tankersley, to help me understand how the management of over 2.6 million plants is possible.

One of the few botanic gardens with AAM (American Alliance of Museums) accreditation, the Chicago Botanic Garden maintains records much like museums do, however, the collection items at CBG happen to be living (and thus can die, move, create new items, etc.). Each plant that enters the collection is given an accession number and deemed to be a member of the permanent collection or given “seasonal” status as a part of a temporary collection (like the orchids that were on view in the orchid show that closed at the end of March). This data is all managed through an internal database.

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